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Viking Energy to face legal challenge

| Written by Hans J Marter

SHETLAND’S plans for a major wind farm could face a further setback after opponents announced their intention to lodge a legal challenge to the planning process in the Court of Session.

The move comes as Shetland Charitable Trust, 45 per cent shareholders in the Viking Energy wind farm, prepare for their third attempt at agreeing the next stage in funding controversial project.

On Wednesday night anti-Viking Energy campaign group Sustainable Shetland announced their intention to lodge a petition with the Court of Session seeking a judicial review.

The 838 member group is taking issue with Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing’s decision on 4 April to grant Viking Energy consent to erect 103 turbines throughout the central Shetland mainland.

In a short statement issued on Wednesday night, Sustainable Shetland said that their management committee had made the following decision:

“That they intend, subject to their approval of Counsel’s Formal Note of Prospects and Draft Petition, to instruct the legal services they have engaged, to lodge a Petition for Judicial Review of the Scottish Ministers’ consent, given on 4 April 2012, under section 36 of the Electricity Act, for the Viking Wind farm.”

Should the petition be accepted, judges would scrutinise the planning process and could overturn the decision to grant planning consent.

Meanwhile newly elected councillors sitting on Shetland Charitable Trust meet next Thursday decide whether to invest a further £6.3 million to take Viking Energy to the construction stage.

The trust is joint developer with energy company Scottish & Southern, with four local businessmen working as Viking Wind Ltd owning 10 per cent of the trust’s half share.

Prior to May’s election the trust failed twice to reach a decision on funding due to their inability to form a quorum as so many trustees declared a conflict of interest.

A third attempt to convene a meeting days before the 5 May election was blocked by Scottish charity regulator OSCR.

Viking Energy’s directors had repeatedly warned that the funds had to be released urgently to protect the community’s share in the wind farm, from which the trust eventually hopes to earn around £20 million a year.

Viking Energy remained a critical issue on doorsteps during the election campaign with many newly elected members declaring their opposition to the development, with others remaining undecided and seeking more information.

Earlier this month the newly elected councillor/trustees received a one-day seminar on the wind farm project, led by the trust’s legal team and industry financial advisors Quayle Munro.

Quayle Munro have advised that the trust’s current stake of £3.42 million is now worth £60 million following the granting of planning consent.

A further investment of £6.3 million would increase that value to £140 million, they say.

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