Council will not object to Viking Energy proposal
Councillors have opted not to object to a proposal to increase the size of the turbines which will form the Viking Energy windfarm.
This came after members of the SIC planning committee deferred a decision last week, citing confusion over the points they were being asked to consider.
Convener Malcolm Bell told members on Wednesday: “It does not matter what your opinion is on renewable energy. We must consider the facts in the report.”
The meeting was not an opportunity to revisit the issue of consent already granted in 2012, Mr Bell said. Instead, councillors could only discuss technical matters related to the firm’s proposal to increase the maximum size of the 103 turbines from 145 metres to 155 metres.
If councillors based their decision on something beyond this in scope the authority could be subject to a judiciary review, the convener cautioned.
He also reminded councillors that the SIC was a formal consultee only and that the final say on whether the project would proceed lay with the Scottish government.
This warning prompted Shetland Central councillor and vocal opponent of the development Ian Scott to leave the chamber. He said he felt he could not be objective.
West Side member Theo Smith also departed the chamber during the discussion, citing a long-held opposition to Viking Energy’s proposals.
Discussions were relatively stymied with councillors John Fraser, Allison Duncan and Stephen Leask all being reprimanded by the chairman for asking questions outside the scope of the report.
Shetland North councillor Alastair Cooper, a former director of Viking Energy, moved that the council offer no objection to the updated application. This was seconded by Lerwick South member Amanda Hawick.
After the meeting James MacKenzie, vice-chairman of the campaign group Sustainable Shetland, said he was “disappointed” with the decision but added that it was “not unexpected”.
“The council seems to be in a bubble,” he said. “They don’t seem to be listening to any kind of opposition.”
Viking Energy head of development and strategy Aaron Priest said: “Naturally, we are pleased that, as a statutory consultee to the application made to the Energy Consents Unit, the council does not object to us making this relatively modest but important change to our consent originally granted back in 2012.
“The next step is for Scottish ministers to consider the application and we look forward to the final decision.
“As well as the income from the community share of the project, Viking Energy has committed to paying community benefit of £5,000 per installed MW of capacity, which will provide an income of up to £2,285,000 per year for community projects in Shetland.”
• More in Friday’s Shetland Times