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Last fight over Viking Energy next month

A view of the proposed Viking wind farm from the Burn of Lunklet.

THE FINAL legal battle over the future of Shetland’s planned 103 turbine Viking Energy wind farm has been provisionally set for 18 December.

Anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland agreed unanimously at a meeting on Tuesday to go ahead with an appeal in London’s Supreme Court.

The decision by 50 of its 850 members who attended the meeting at Bixter public hall came a week after the group learned that they would be granted a protected costs order.

As a result Sustainable Shetland will only have to pay £5,000 of the other side’s court costs if they lose the case.

The legal wrangle began when Sustainable Shetland brought a judicial review against the Scottish government’s decision in April 2012 to grant consent for the wind farm, which is jointly owned by Shetland Charitable Trust, Scottish Southern Energy and four local businessmen.

Last year the Court of Session upheld the judicial review, which was based on an alleged breach of the European Birds Directive.

The government appealed the decision and three judges in the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh overturned the original judgment to let the wind farm go ahead.

Sustainable Shetland’s chairman Frank Hay said December’s hearing in the highest court in the land would probably be the final stage in the legal battle.

“There may be some reference to Europe for clarification, but I think this will be the end of the road. This is the last chance saloon,” he said.

So far the group has raised £130,000 to pay its legal fees. If it loses the case it will have to raise a further £40,000 to cover its own costs plus £5,000 of the government’s costs.

If it wins the government will have to pay all Sustainable Shetland’s expenses, as their protected cost order is set at £60,000.

“We hope the outcome will be in our favour,” Hay said.

“We feel this is an inappropriate development and that other forms of renewable energy should have been looked at, rather than just a giant wind farm.”

While the group is using the birds directive to fight the wind farm in the courts, its main concern is the impact the turbines will have on the communities in Aith, Nesting and Weisdale.

Commenting on the hearing, Viking Energy Shetland head of development and strategy Aaron Priest said: “We very much look forward to having the case heard. We are confident that the decision of the Inner House – that the consent was lawfully granted – will be upheld.”