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Call for register of wind farm views

THE CAMPAIGN group supporting the Viking Energy wind farm in Shetland is calling on the local authority to organise a local register to allow islanders to make their views on the project known.
They Windfarm Supporters Group said a previous round of public meetings had been hijacked by opponents of the project and did not reflect the true feelings in the community.
Shetland Islands Council is a statutory consultee in the planning process for the 457 megawatt wind farm, and has until the 17 December to make its submission to the Scottish government’s energy consents unit.
Councillors have been advised that they have to be wary of a potential conflict of interest because as trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust they control 45 per cent of the venture.
Last year, in response to Viking Energy’s initial planning application, the council held four public meetings to gauge local opinion.
Following the publication of a revised and reduced proposal last month, the local authority is considering whether another round of public meetings is needed to test the temperature.
Anti-Viking group Sustainable Shetland has already called for more meetings, but the Windfarm Supporters Group said on Wednesday it had written to SIC head of planning Iain McDiarmid calling for a different approach.
The letter, signed by Chris Bunyan on behalf of the group, said: “We oppose any idea of repeating the exercise. We disagree with the argument that the meetings last year were some democratic process that reflected local opinions.
“The meetings reflected a successful campaign by opponents of Viking Energy to pack the meetings and there are persistent suggestions of people voting at more than one meeting, people from other areas, or even outwith Shetland, and possibly even voting at the meetings.
“Furthermore the meetings did not include the option of abstention and some found them quite intimidating.
“The council allowed its meetings to be turned into a publicity stunt for opponents of the wind farm by agreeing to a vote. A tactic by opponents that we might admire from a campaigning point of view, but it had little to do with truly reflecting local opinion.
“Now it is time to encourage thousands of islanders to express their views – not just a few hundred who might attend public meetings.
“Instead we believe the council should play a major role in encouraging people to make their views known to the Scottish government and councillors by organising a publicity initiative throughout the islands.”