No further public consultation meetings will be staged on Viking Energy’s plans for a huge 127-turbine windfarm in the isles after SIC councillors accepted a senior official’s advice that there were “no compelling reasons” for doing so.
Members voted 10-7 during this morning’s Full Council meeting not to emulate a series of events hosted by council officials in Aith, Brae, Dunrossness and Lerwick last year.
Executive director of infrastructure Gordon Greenhill told them Viking’s recently-submitted addendum to its original application “does not change the fundamental nature of the original application” because it remains “wholly contained within the boundaries of the original proposal”.
The decision is liable to spark anger from project opponent Sustainable Shetland, which has been lobbying for another round of meetings to take place. Around three quarters of people who voted at last year’s consultations said they were against the £685 million project, though the Windfarm Supporters Group claims the meetings were “unrepresentative”.
Debate on the matter was brief in the Town Hall chamber, with Rick Nickerson arguing that in a time of financial restraint it was not a good use of public money given the final call on the project will be made by the Scottish government’s energy consents unit.
“Nothing in the addendum substantially or significantly changes the impact on either the environment or communities,” Mr Nickerson said, adding that if Viking or any other party wanted to run consultation meetings they were more than welcome to do so.
The addendum reduced the number of turbines from 150 to 127 and drastically revised down the project’s estimated carbon payback time to less than one year, the latter figure prompting incredulity from some opponents.
West Mainland councillor Florence Grains argued to the contrary, suggesting that dismissing public consultation on the addendum risked giving the impression that members saw it as being “of little importance”. But she lost out by a margin of three votes, with an abstention from Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills.
A poll of 1,000 of the adult population commissioned by The Shetland Times last summer indicated that 48 per cent of people were opposed to the project, 31 per cent in favour and 21 per cent undecided.
Anyone who wants to support or object to the proposal should contact the energy consents unit before Friday 19th November, by email to EnergyConsents@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or by writing to: Energy Consents and Deployment Unit, Scottish Government, 4th Floor, 5 Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow, G2 8LU