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SSE furious about planning decision

POWER giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has slammed Shetland Islands Council for allowing a planning hearing to go ahead without representatives from the company, who were unable to attend the meeting due to the ongoing flight disruptions.

On Wednesday, the council’s planning board decided to defer a decision on whether to grant planning permission in principle for a 14 hectare development, at Kergord, to site an electricity converter station for the proposed 540 megawatt Viking Energy wind farm.

The board meeting was addressed by four objectors to the application, but no one from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL), an SSE subsidiary, had made it to Shetland for the hearing to speak in favour of the application.

Prior to discussing the application the eight members of the planning board briefly discussed whether it was right to go ahead without SHETL.

Iris Hawkins was the only councillor to voice some concern. She said the hearing system demanded that both sides should have the chance to address board members.

But chairman Frank Robertson ruled that the application should be discussed “in the circumstances”.

An SSE spokesperson SSE said on Wednesday afternoon: “We understand that the hearing has taken place this morning and are extremely disappointed with SIC’s decision to go ahead without SHETL being represented.

“We did not receive reasonable notice of this hearing and expressed concern to SIC about the timing, combined with the current travel situation.

“Given that the hearing has now taken place we believe our position in this matter has been severely prejudiced and are now considering our options.”

Last night Mr Robertson defended his decision and said that all the information required for a decision to be made had been presented to councillors.

He said he was comfortable with his own conduct at the meeting and added that a precedent could have been set had the meeting been postponed.

“If we postpone a meeting for one company we are in danger of being required to postpone whenever some person is unable to attend a meeting, be it an applicant or an objector.

“In consultation with the head of planning, I therefore felt there were no legal reasons why we could not consider the matter.”

He said that application had not been turned down, but deferred as recommended by planning officials, and this was known to SHETL.

The planning department said last night that invitations to the meeting had gone out on Friday.

However, with the flight cancellations and subsequent delays in postal deliveries, it could have taken some time for the invitation to reach SHETL’s offices in Perth.