Campaigners have escalated their complaint about the SIC’s handling of the controversial Viking Energy windfarm.
Save Shetland announced today (Tuesday) that it had taken its complaint about the planning authority to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
The group first raised its grievance last month. It had also submitted a petition to the SIC with more than 1,200 signatures calling for work on the windfarm to be halted.
Members were concerned work was progressing before several conditions had been discharged, the most important of which being a financial bond.
“A financial guarantee is not in place to this day,” said the group’s Ernie Ramaker.
“Save Shetland believes this willingness on the part of the SIC to accommodate the developer puts it, and thereby the Shetland people, at a great disadvantage.”
Neil Grant director of development services at the SIC responded to the group’s complaint, saying: “In any development, the council, as a reasonable planning authority, cannot adopt a blanket policy of automatically pursuing enforcement action in relation to any alleged breach of planning conditions by a given developer.”
Save Shetland said that while the approach may be reasonable for less important developments, it considered the absence of a financial bond to be a “major liability to the people of Shetland”.
“We are of the opinion that the project therefore should never have been allowed to commence before the bond was in place,” said Mr Ramaker.
“For these reasons, we have taken the complaint to the next level.”
SIC chief executive, responding to the news, said: “We always welcome the use of the SPSO to provide independent review and feedback on the council’s processes, which helps drive continuous improvement and organisational learning.”
Viking Energy windfarm spokesman Aaron Priest said the proposals for the value and mechanism of the financial bond, also known as the “decommissioning guarantee”, were originally submitted to the council in 2019.
He said discussions had been ongoing since then.
“The matter currently rests with the council,” Mr Priest added.
“VEWF is aware that the council is taking independent expert advice on the terms and nature of the decommissioning guarantee.”
A decommissioning guarantee is a standard requirement of a project consent, which aims to ensure funding is in place to restore the site once it comes to the end of its viable life. It is agreed between the developer and planning authority.
The Viking Energy windfarm is consented to operate for 25 years after its expected completion in 2024.
The decommissioning guarantee, once in place, will be reviewed every five years and refreshed, as appropriate.