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Energy / Mossy Hill wind farm plans approved by councillors

The proposed layout of the Mossy Hill wind farm.An Ordnance Survey map showing the layout of the Mossy Hill wind farm. Image: Shetland Islands Council planning department.

THE PROPOSED 12-turbine Mossy Hill wind farm on the outskirts of Lerwick has been given the green light by Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee.

Councillors met on Monday to discuss Peel Energy’s plans and the development was approved with two extra conditions added to an already large list of requirements the developer will need to adhere to.

A motion by committee chairman Theo Smith to approve the plans with a condition to strengthen shadow flicker mitigation for homes closest to the development was passed after a vote by the eight councillors.

A new condition was also imposed to deal with concerns from the Shetland shooting club over the site encroaching onto its safety drop zone.

The plans already came with over 30 suggested conditions from the council’s planning service in areas like operation, construction, aviation, bird breeding, habitat and peatland.

One is to develop a scheme for the shutdown of specific wind turbines during times when shadow flicker resulting from the blades is predicted to occur in nearby areas of housing.

Theo SmithPlanning committee chairman Theo Smith.

A counter motion by North Mainland member Andrea Manson to reject the plans due to the proximity to houses, the possible effect on a local water supply and shadow flicker was outvoted by six to two, with only South Mainland councillor George Smith backing her.

Members were recommended to approve the plans as its “impacts would be outweighed by the benefits of renewable energy generation”.

Manchester based Peel Energy is looking to build a 12-turbine wind farm with a generating capacity of up to 50 megawatts on a site between Lerwick and Scalloway after scaling down its initial plans from 21 turbines.

Each generator would have a maximum blade tip of 145 metres, and it is anticipated that the wind farm would generate electricity for 25 years before being decommissioned.

The wind farm is dependent on a subsea transmission cable being laid between Shetland and the Scottish mainland, something that is likely to happen should the planned 103-turbine Viking Energy farm win government subsidy later this year.

In a report presented to councillors on Monday afternoon, council planners said the wind farm would make a “significant contribution to meeting greenhouse gas emission and renewable energy targets” and would provide job opportunities and contribute to the local economy.

The report added that “environmental effects can be mitigated by planning conditions”.

Three residential properties are within one kilometre of the wind turbines, at Frakkafield and Tagdale, and a further seven properties are within 1.5 kilometres.

The committee heard from the council’s development manager team leader John Holden, who acknowledged that issues like the impact on landscape can be centred on a “emotional response” where there are “no formulas to assist”.

But planning officers said it was not considered that the landscape impacts were significant enough to warrant refusal of the planning application when balanced against the potential reduction in greenhouse gases that are anticipated as a result of the development.

Shetland Central member Davie Sandison said with scores of conditions in mind, he had worries about the under-staffed planning team’s ability to deal with the development.

“My concern is about the extent of the resources available…and the level of expertise with our resources,” he said.

Planning manager Iain McDiarmid said his team were used to processing a wide range of applications from house extensions to the Shetland Gas Plant, but admitted it could be difficult to juggle a number of large developments at the same time.

This could happen should plans for the interconnector, which are being led by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, get the go-ahead.

Local campaign group Sustainable Shetland had objected to the Mossy Hill plans, saying that it – along with the nearby Burradale development and the proposed Viking Energy wind farm – would have an “unacceptable” cumulative effect on the isles’ landscape.

The group’s James Mackenzie was one of four objectors who spoke to the committee on Monday.

He suggested the Mossy Hill wind farm may contravene planning guidance due to the capacity of the turbines.

Angus Nicol, speaking on behalf of residents from nearby Frakkafield, said all of his neighbours opposed the plans.

He described having large wind turbines near to two accident blackspots at the Frakkafield junction at the Brig o’ Fitch as “nuts” – suggesting they could distract drivers.

Jenny Atkinson, from Tingwall, raised concerns of shadow flicker and the movement of turbines.

She said with the existing Burradale generators nearby her house, “we will be surrounded by turbines”.

Peter Davis of the Shetland Clay Target Club, meanwhile, said the proposed site encroaches on part of its shooting area.

“The access road will infringe on our safety drop zone, which has to be in place for the legal reasons,” he said.

Peel Energy’s development manager Steve Snowden faced a number of questions from councillors, particularly relating to the development’s proximity to houses.

“We are informed by our studies that in these instances there will not be an unacceptable adverse impact,” he said.

“Right from the start of this meeting today what really, really disturbed me is this flicker, or potential flicker from these machines, especially in Frakkafield,” Theo Smith said as the discussion moved to debate.

He said he wanted a condition to “beef up” shadow flicker mitigation by specifically mentioning the houses at Frakkafield and also at the top of Shurton Brae in Gulberwick in a condition about the issue.

Lerwick South member Cecil Smith agreed, saying: “I think we need to be sure that we keep complete control of this flickering”.

Town councillor Malcolm Bell supported Theo Smith’s motion, but suggested to add a condition to ensure that any problems with the clay shooting club are dealt with.

George Smith, meanwhile, said he was “quite uneasy” about the application.

“I’m really not sure that this is acceptable to the folk that are most affected by it,” he admitted.

Manson said she “could not look herself in the mirror” if she supported the plans due to their proximity to housing, with noise in addition to flicker also a potential problem.

She suggested development should be “somewhere it’s not going to destroy somebody’s life”.

Manson proposed a counter motion to refuse the plans, but she was outvoted and the wind farm development moved one step closer to coming to fruition.