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Last minute Viking objections

The UK’s largest wildlife charity RSPB and the Shetland Amenity Trust are among a range of groups and organisations that have restated their opposition to plans for a 127 turbine wind farm on moorland in the central mainland of Shetland.

As the a six week consultation drew to a close on Friday, the objectors expressed grave concern with the proposal which they say could endanger important bird populations and rare peat bog habitat.

Meanwhile Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills has called on the Scottish government to stage a public inquiry to defuse a “poisoned and polarised atmosphere” and examine the facts and the arguments “in a rational and dispassionate manner”.

In September, Viking Energy, a partnership between Scottish and Southern Energy and Shetland Charitable Trust, submitted revised plans for a 457 megawatt wind farm following a storm of protest to a larger scheme last year.

The proposal has divided and polarised the community which has a 45 per cent stake in the partnership through the charitable trust.

Groups renewing their objection this week, including Shetland Bird Club, the John Muir Trust and anti Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland, say the downscaled proposal has “materially not altered the project”.

Sustainable Shetland said that since Viking Energy had published their smaller scheme its membership had shot up from around 675 to 750.

Chairman Billy Fox said: “This development is completely inappropriate for the Shetland landscape as it is far too large.

“In addition, it is proposed to be built on vulnerable blanket bog habitat that should not be disturbed as it acts as a carbon sick for greenhouse gases.”

RSPB area manager for Shetland Pete Ellis said “insufficient changes” had been made to the original application.

He said the area in question had “very high conservation value” due to important populations of whooper swan, red-throated diver, merlin, lapwing, golden plover, dunlin, whimbrel, Artic skua, Arctic tern and skylark.

He added that the bird charity was not against wind farms in principle and invited Viking Energy to come forward with a proposal on “a more modest scale”.

Councillor Wills congratulated the developer on their responses to the many objections and the attempt to address most of the issues raised.

He added: “However, I wish to maintain my objection, on the simple grounds that the proposed development is still too large by at least 50 per cent, and that the scale of it has been dictated not by what would be appropriate for the Shetland landscape but by the economics of the cable to the mainland.

“I have not changed my view that a far better site for a rather smaller wind farm, of perhaps 50 to 75 large turbines, would be Ronas Hill.”

The Scottish government said last night that by 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon they had received just 12 responses to the addendum consultation. There were more than 2,000 responses to the original application.

Last week, SEPA withdrew their original objection to the project, saying that they were satisfied with the mitigation measures proposed by the developer.

Scottish Natural Heritage has been given an extra week so they can meet the developer next Tuesday before submitting a response.