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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Council / Wind farm decision deferred for a week

An artist's impression of the bigger turbines. Photo: Viking Energy.An artist's impression of the bigger turbines. Photo: Viking Energy.

SHETLAND Islands Council is to make a decision on whether to recommend a plan to increase the size of turbine blades for the proposed Viking Wind Farm.

In an unusual move the council’s planning committee adjourned on Wednesday to see if a one-week extension could be gained to allow the planning variation to be debated by full council, which will then make a recommendation to the Energy Consents Unit.

Committee members had discovered on Wednesday that the issue had been “taken to the wire” with a recommendation on the variation to be in Edinburgh by the next day.

But members were concerned that the full council should be involved in a debate that would “affect the length and breadth of Shetland”.

Governance executive manager Jan Riise told councillors that they could be held derelict of their democratic duty as consultees if they failed to make a response to the ECU by tomorrow.

The committee took a 20-minute break while legal officials endeavoured to get permission from the powers that be at the ECU to defer the deadline for the council’s submission till next Friday.

Conditions attached to the variation will still be subject to negotiation with the ECU which wants to make a decision before the next round of renewable electricity bidding is held in May. The efficiency of the planned wind farm could be a significant factor in Viking Energy’s success in the process.

The council had already received one extension to its deadline and committee members appeared aghast that they were “up against the wire” once more.

Shetland North councillor Emma Macdonald moved that the committee recommend that the council make no objections to the variation that would add 10m to the height of the 103 proposed turbines – with the condition that the change did not clash with the Shetland Development Plan. But she received no support from her colleagues.

Instead Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith said it would be an “offence” to the “community of Shetland and more so our fellow members” if the entire council was not to be allowed to vote on the variation.

South Mainland councillor George Smith was concerned that the planning report was “sprinkled” with references to conditions and variations that needed a proper airing before councillors made a decision.

Officials were therefore tasked to put the conditions in a separate appendix for consideration by the council.

Sustainable Shetland vice chairman James Mackenzie, who was at the meeting along with a small number of wind farm objectors, said later that he was pleased the issue had been put to full council as the report had lacked clarity.

He said: “I’m glad its been deferred to the full council to deliberate on this. Both Cecil Smith and George Smith brought up important points about clarity of conditions which are not going to be set in stone, they are still going to be negotiated with the Energy Consents Unit and I think that Cecil’s idea that this is such an important issue that the full council ought to be debating it – I am fully in agreement with that.

MacKenzie said that he would be writing to councillors again before next Tuesday’s SIC meeting.