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Protest stops work on wind masts

WORK ON erecting wind data masts in Shetland has been suspended after a peaceful protest by opponents to a massive windfarm proposal in the isles.

Sustainable Shetland said developer Viking Energy Partnership contravenes a planning condition which would prevent them from erecting three 70 metre high masts during the bird breeding season.

Viking Energy Partnership, a company owned by Scottish & Southern Energy, the Shetland Charitable Trust and four local shareholders, said the local authority’s planning department had granted planning permission in April, and subsequently had issued a construction method statement for the work to commence on 25 May.

Early on Sunday morning around ten protesters turned out at Kergord, near Weisdale, to register their protest as contractors arrived at 8am to start preparatory work to erect the third of the masts on Scalla Field, Shetland’ second highest hill.

Two other masts had gone up during last week at Runn Hill, at Nesting, and Mid Kames, near Voe.

Within minutes, the specialist contractor, from the Scottish mainland, decided to abandon work until the controversy could be cleared up with the Shetland Islands Council’s planning department on Monday, but was told by Dennis Thomson, one of the minority shareholders, to stay until he could clarify the situation with the company.

The protest was entirely peaceful and good natured with contractors and protesters sharing coffee, tea and biscuits.

By 10am, Sustainable Shetland members as well as the six contractors left the scene.

Mr Thomson declined to comment, but Viking Energy project co-ordinator, Allan Wishart, who is also the councillor for Lerwick North, said he had written permission – seen by the Shetland News – from the council’s planning department for the work to go ahead.

“Planning approval was granted to get on with the work from 25 May and Viking Energy is complying with that approval.

“I understand now that there seems to be some lack of understanding of what happened at the actual planning board meeting and the approval which Viking Energy now has.

“However, that is not something to do with Viking Energy, but has to be sorted out with the council.”

But Sustainable Shetland vice chairman Kevin Learmonth said the minutes of a planning board meeting from 21 April, when Viking Energy were granted planning permission, couldn’t be clearer.

It states: “In response to a question from the chairperson (Frank Robertson), the service manager (Jon Holden) confirmed that the additional condition would ensure no activity in the area during the bird breeding season.”

Mr Learmonth said: “We want confirmation that no work goes ahead during the bird breeding season. We want planning to put an immediate stop on all construction work just now until the exact details of the planning conditions are clarified.”

Earlier this year, Viking Energy had been criticised for not complying with planning conditions for previous masts.

The company plans to build a 550 megawatt windfarm in the north central mainland of Shetland, a proposal that is highly controversial among local people.