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Letters / RSPB objected to Viking development

I am writing in response to Frank Hay’s letter of 20 August where he shared correspondence from residents in Nesting (‘We feel utterly helpless’; SN, 20 August 2019).

Although RSPB Scotland cannot always respond to correspondence as quickly as we would like, we have now replied to the residents’ email directly. If people wish to contact RSPB Scotland about matters in Shetland, please contact our local mailbox shetland@rspb.org.uk or call the Shetland Office on 01950 460800.

RSPB Scotland supports the development of renewables, including wind energy generally, as a vital part of dealing with the challenge of climate change – the greatest long-term threat to birds, other wildlife and people.

However, developments must be located and designed to avoid harming our most important places for wildlife. Although there is no legal requirement for a planning authority to consult RSPB Scotland for any applications, including wind farm developments, we often provide comment. We carefully consider each application and do not take the decision to object to an application lightly.

In the case of the Viking Energy wind farm application, many in Shetland will remember that RSPB Scotland objected to the proposal in 2009. In summary, the main reasons for objecting were our assessment:

  • The development would cause unacceptable damage to regional and, in some cases, UK populations of a number of bird species;
  • The development would cause unacceptable damage to active blanket bog;
  • The predicted carbon balance of the proposal is uncertain, may be significantly negative and if positive, would be insufficient to outweigh the other significant adverse environmental effects of the development;
  • The development would be contrary to the development plan and national planning policy.

We also objected to the variation in consent in 2018. The details of both applications can be found on the Energy Consents Unit (ECU) website (www.energyconsents.scot, search for ‘Viking’).

Our objections, and those of many others, were unsuccessful and the revised consent was issued from the ECU in May 2019 with a number of conditions attached to the permission which the developer must comply with.

As a nature conservation charity, RSPB Scotland has no power to enforce conditions on a permission or against unauthorised development; this is the responsibility of the Shetland Island Council.

We will be active members of the Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group and will continue to engage with the developer and planning authority to try to ensure that conditions are complied with and the habitat management plan is delivered.

We have also contacted Viking Energy directly for comment on the ground investigation works and the potential for disturbance.

Finally, I encourage people to engage with the planning process for any development where they have concerns about the impacts it has on wildlife.

This can include raising concerns with a developer, becoming familiar with the conditions that are imposed to consented developments, and communicating with the SIC development management team, relevant community councils and SIC councillors.

Helen Moncrieff
Shetland Islands Manager
Sumburgh Head Lighthouse