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Anti-Viking court costs will be capped

| Written by Contributed

ANTI Viking Energy campaigners have secured a court order limiting their potential expenses ahead of a legal challenge against one of the biggest wind farm projects in Scotland.

Sustainable Shetland is seeking to have a Scottish Government decision to grant consent for the 103 turbine Viking Energy wind farm set aside to allow a public inquiry to take place.

A spokesman for the campaign group would only say that they were delighted with the outcome of the hearing, but had no further comment to make at this time.

The controversial project has attracted thousands of objections because of concerns over impact on the landscape and on the whimbrel, a protected migratory wading bird.

Viking Energy, a joint venture of Scottish & Southern Energy and Shetland Charitable Trust, continues developing the project and hopes to start erecting the first turbines in 2017.

The campaign group maintains that the ministers acted unlawfully or unreasonably in not holding a public inquiry before giving the go-ahead for the development.

They have raised proceedings for a judicial review of the Scottish Ministers decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

On Friday, Lord Doherty said he considered it an appropriate case 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.

This means should Sustainable Shetland lose the judicial review they would have to pay their own cost but not more than £5,000 of the government’s legal expenses.

Representing the campaign group, Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC said that a 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 other interest except in protecting the public interest and added: "They have no economic interest in the outcome."

In the action, likely to be heard at the end of January, it is claimed that Scottish Ministers failed to give proper consideration to objections over the Viking Energy wind farm.

It is also claimed that Scottish Ministers failed to give adequate reasons for not holding a public inquiry.

It is further maintained that they failed properly to take account of the impact of the development on the whimbrel and their duties under the birds directive.

It is also said 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 maintain that the decision letter over the Viking project failed to properly address landscape objections raised over the large-scale development.

"In view of the conflicting scientific and other issues, in relation to nature conservation, the landscape and other issues, it would have been appropriate to hold an inquiry in order that the Scottish Ministers might be properly informed on these issues.

“The Scottish Ministers could not reasonably resolve these conflicting issues without an inquiry," it is said.

Dave Finlay

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