A trustee has accused Viking Energy of “brushing aside” the charitable trust’s request to examine setting up a property compensation fund for those living near planned wind turbines.
Theo Smith said he was “very disappointed” after Viking chairman Bill Manson wrote to trustees saying that, with no turbines likely to be erected before 2017, it would be premature to set up a compensation fund.
In his letter, Mr Manson said he had spoken to surveyors locally and nationally and found “widespread agreement” that it is “rarely possible to quantify objectively any effect of windfarms on prices realised”. That was even more difficult when a windfarm had yet to be built, he added.
Trustees had been annoyed at Viking’s previous dismissal of such a fund, and Mr Smith was joined by independent trustee and windfarm supporter Bobby Hunter in voicing displeasure during yesterday’s trust meeting at Islesburgh. Mr Hunter said Viking must not be allowed to get away with saying the impact on house prices was “not quantifiable”.
Mr Smith said: “Most of the folk in this room today would agree that if you get a structure of the size [Viking] is proposing to erect virtually overlooking your property, it is bound to have an effect on the value of that property.
“We, as an investor, need to get an assurance from Viking now that if, in the future, it’s found that this windfarm is going to affect property prices, they are willing to set up a compensation fund.”
However, councillor trustee Robert Henderson said that on a fact-finding mission on the west coast of Scotland, he had heard “no mention” from community councils about windfarms causing property prices to tumble. “We can’t go jumping and making decisions until we have evidence to back that up,” he said.
Trust vice-chairman Jonathan Wills agreed, saying there was “no attempt to brush anything aside” but evidence from chartered surveyors and local assessors would need to be collated. Chairman Drew Ratter said he “can’t imagine it not being kept under review”.
Mr Manson wrote that there was “no renewable industry precedent” for establishing such a compensation fund, but until the project gets nearer construction “circumstances will be kept under periodic consideration”.
Sustainable Shetland chairman Andrew Halcrow said the organisation was committed to securing compensation for folk who will have turbines towering over their properties. He pointed to Denmark, where the state has made “loss of value” payments to more than 500 people living close to windfarms.
Mr Halcrow also advised Mr Manson to consider “going cap-in-hand” to Viking’s partners SSE. The energy giant this week announced a 38 per cent rise in profits to nearly £400 million in the first half of this financial year – weeks after raising electricity prices by nine per cent.
The charitable trust has a 45 per cent stake in the 103-turbine Viking project. In June trustees agreed to invest a further £6.3 million towards taking the windfarm to the stage where construction is ready to begin.
Financial controller Jeff Goddard informed trustees yesterday that Viking has so far drawn down £1.8 million of that sum.
Meanwhile, Mr Ratter said NHS Shetland’s Dr Sarah Taylor had offered to meet trustees before the end of the year to discuss progress on a health impact study into the windfarm.