Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is maintaining its objection to the controversial Viking Energy windfarm on the basis that the planned 127 turbines could have an adverse impact on bird species such as whimbrel.
However, in its submission to the Scottish government’s energy consents unit, delayed to allow for further discussions with the developer, it says a large windfarm can be accommodated in the Central Mainland provided 17 turbines are removed and extra work is done to protect sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). More talks are to be held with Viking Energy.
The agency says 95 per cent of the national whimbrel population breed in Shetland while other birds such as the red-throated diver, merlin, golden plover, dunlin, Arctic skua, curlew and great skua are threatened by the development
The windfarm will also have significant landscape and visual impacts, it adds.
SNH’s decision to maintain its objection comes after the Scottish RSPB said the windfarm threatened “unacceptable damage” to bird populations. Last week Shetland Amenity Trust and the John Muir Trust also voiced their continued opposition to the windfarm.
SNH area manager for the Northern Isles, John Uttley, said: “Our advice is that the current proposal will have significant adverse impacts on birds and landscapes of national interest and we are maintaining our objections on these issues.
“We consider that a large windfarm can be accommodated in this general area. We are happy to further advise the applicant if they wish to identify appropriate changes, so that a large windfarm can be developed without significant adverse impacts on the natural heritage.”
SNH says the development would also affect Sandwater site of special scientific interest (SSSI) as well as Voxter, Voe and Valayre Quarry SSSI. However the advice is that working methods can be agreed to preserve those sites.
Viking Energy project co-ordinator Allan Wishart said the company would take up SNH’s offer of continued talks. He said there were an estimated 300,000 pairs of whimbrel in Northern Europe, adding Viking Energy’s projected fatalities from collision risk was 2.1 birds per annum.
Mr Wishart claimed a habitat management plan devised by Viking Energy would greatly exceed any potential disturbance.