Windfarm campaigners welcome cost-capping ruling
Sustainable Shetland has secured a court order capping its legal costs ahead of a legal challenge against the Viking windfarm.
The group is seeking to have the Scottish government’s decision to grant consent for 103 large turbines in the isles overturned.
It has secured an order limiting its potential expenses ahead of its battle against the project.
Viking Energy’s windfarm has attracted objections following concerns over the possible impact on the landscape and on the whimbrel, a protected migratory wading bird.
The campaign group maintains that ministers acted unlawfully or unreasonably in not holding a public inquiry before giving the go-ahead for the project. They have raised proceedings for a judicial review of the Scottish ministers’ decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Making the judgement on Friday Lord Doherty said he considered it appropriate to make a protective expenses order limiting the group’s potential liability to £5,000 with a cap of £30,000 put on the ministers’ expenses.
Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC, for the campaigners, said the major challenge was in relation to the impact of the development on the whimbrel which is protected under a birds directive.
“We are talking about a wind farm which is the equivalent of five normal wind farms,” he told the court.
In arguing for the protective costs order he said Sustainable Shetland had no interest except in protecting the public interest and added: “They have no economic interest in the outcome.”
In the action it is claimed Scottish ministers failed to give proper consideration to objections over the windfarm and all other material considerations in deciding not to have a public inquiry. It is also claimed they failed to give adequate reasons for not having one.
They are also said to have failed to take account of the impact of the development on the whimbrel and their duties under the birds directive.
It is also argued they could not reasonably have decided the relevant factual background to establish the scientific facts over the protection of the bird without an inquiry.
Campaigners say the decision letter over the Viking project failed to properly address landscape objections raised over the development.
The campaign group’s chairman, Andrew Halcrow, said: “Sustainable Shetland welcomes the decision of the Scottish Court of Session to grant a protective costs order to Sustainable Shetland in respect of the Judicial Review of the Scottish ministers’ decision to grant planning permission for the Viking Windfarm, with a cap on liability to Sustainable Shetland of £5,000 for ministers’ legal costs, and a reciprocal cap for their liability of £30,000 for our legal costs, and with no liability to Sustainable Shetland for Viking Energy Partnership’s legal costs.
“We have no further comment at this time.”
When approval for the Viking wind farm was given in April this year Energy Minister Fergus Ewing claimed it would “bring enormous benefits to the people of Shetland”.
The project, the third biggest in Scotland, was said to be capable of powering more than 175,000 homes.