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Councillors grant wind mast permission

SHETLAND wind farm developer Viking Energy has been given five more years to record wind data from a meteorological mast at Mid Kame, near Voe.

Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee granted permission unanimously and without debate.

The application by SSE Renewables, one of the shareholders in the 457 megawatt wind farm project, had attracted four objections.

During a short hearing in Lerwick Town Hall on Tuesday morning, James Mackenzie of anti-Viking group Sustainable Shetland told the four councillors present that planning conditions had previously been breached when the applicant used the wrong access route.

“In the event contractors were observed accessing the mast site from the A970 close to Petta Water and an occupied red throated diver breeding site on two occasions,” Mackenzie said.

“It is therefore of great concern to me that conditions or recommendations made by the planning authority may be ignored again to the detriment of wildlife.”

Viking Energy’s project officer David Thomson said the data mast was one of many the project had across the site.

As the wind farm is unlikely to be built before 2018/19, collecting further wind data was necessary to make the right decisions on turbine acquisition and financial modeling, he said.

The recommendation to renew the temporary planning permission was then moved by councillor Drew Ratter and seconded by Steven Coutts.

Former Viking director Ratter had earlier declared a non-pecuniary interest as a trustee of Shetland Charitable Trust, a major shareholder in the Viking project, but decided to participate in the planning meeting.

Committee member and former Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox said he could not take part, as it was he who had presented the group’s original objection back in April 2010.

After the meeting Thomson said: “We’re satisfied with the result and are always happy to go through the correct process so everyone can have their say.

“It is important to us to have continual wind data to cover the period until the project is up and running.

“At that point the temporary masts will be decommissioned and the permanent masts that already have been approved as part of last year’s wind farm consent will take over.”

Mackenzie said: “I was not surprised by the decision today, be we nevertheless thought it worthwhile to bring to the attention of the committee and the wider public that this temporary planning permission has conditions attached which cannot be complied with.

“One of the conditions is for the re-instatement of the site after the removal of the mast. This is impossible as the mast will be replaced by a large section of the planned wind farm.”

The wind farm project received planning consent from Scottish ministers in April last year, a decision that is currently being challenged by Sustainable Shetland in the Court of Session.