A crucial report on Viking Energy’s controversial windfarm by the SIC’s planning department contains a series of “basic errors” which undermine its credibility, project co-ordinator Allan Wishart claimed today.
Councillors will tomorrow discuss the report, which is recommending that the SIC should object to the 127-turbine windfarm because it will have an “unacceptable environmental impact”.
If the council objects to the application, which will ultimately be determined by the Scottish government’s energy consents unit, it will automatically trigger a possibly lengthy public inquiry next year.
But Mr Wishart criticised the 69-page report and said the conclusions arrived at “cannot be justified” because of the “significant number of errors it contains”.
In a statement, he said: “I highlight a few examples, by way of illustration. Firstly, the planning report says the extent of the use of floating roads is ‘not clear’. Yet the exact projected lengths and locations of all floating roads are set out in the addendum and repeated in a number of places in the document.
“Secondly, the report gets straightforward items like the numbers of borrow pits and the numbers of noise monitors wrong. Thirdly the report alleges that Viking Energy haven’t walked and surveyed the access tracks when the application documents clearly set out these survey results. There are more of these basic errors in the planning report and sadly, they undermine the report’s credibility.”
Mr Wishart said planning officers should have viewed the projected socio-economic benefits of the project as a “material planning consideration”, as had been done for windfarm applications elsewhere.
“This omission is particularly disappointing given the unique ownership structure of the Viking project which offers a far greater level of socio-economic benefit than any other windfarm in the country – both in terms of the profits generated and returned directly to the Shetland economy and in providing huge opportunities in opening up the potential in marine renewables.
“Also it is not clear why planning officers have explicitly chosen to exclude the benefits of positive proposals such as the archaeology project or the habitat management plan.”
Mr Wishart acknowledged that the original application and the addendum were both long and complex documents but added: “I am perturbed by the number of instances where the report suggests that there is missing or insufficient information, when that information is either contained within the document, or could easily have been clarified by the Viking Energy project team.”
The deadline for the SIC’s response to the energy consents unit is this Sunday. A number of consultees, including statutory body Scottish Natural Heritage, have maintained their objections to the project. Sepa has withdrawn its objection subject to certain conditions.
While planners believe the development of a windfarm of “significant scale” could comply with its development plan, Viking’s project could not be built without compromising the area’s “high quality environment”.
The report notes that the project’s carbon payback is “as yet undeterminable” because Sepa has been unable to carry out work on the emission losses and savings which the project would cause. Viking’s estimate of a worst-case scenario of paying back the carbon emissions within less than one year has been hotly disputed by the project’s many opponents.