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Council / Council grants works licence for subsea cable

THE CHAIRMAN of campaign group Sustainable Shetland has hit out at the council’s planning service after permission for a high voltage power cable pivotal to the Viking Energy wind farm project was granted under delegated powers without councillors discussing the application.

Plans for the cable taken from a booklet given out by SSEN in 2016.The route of the proposed subsea cable linking Shetland to the Scottish mainland. Image: SSE

Frank Hay said Shetland Islands Council appeared to be working hard to remove all remaining hurdles for the controversial 443 MW project, the largest onshore wind farm in the UK.

The application by SHE Transmission plc, lodged at the end of March, to install the subsea cable across the sea floor from Weisdale Voe out to 12 nautical miles attracted a number of objections particularly from the aquaculture industry operating in the area.

Under the ZCC (1974) Act Shetland Islands Council has jurisdiction over inshore developments.

Generally, applications for smaller developments are decided by planning officers while “more complex or controversial proposals are likely to be decided by councillors” (From: A Guide to the Planning System in Scotland).

However, works licence applications are generally decided by delegated authority with only a few exceptions such as when the planning authority itself applies for a works licence, or if a statutory consultee has objected.

Approving the application, planning service manager Iain MacDiarmid imposed 15 special conditions in addition to the standard terms and conditions, including a communications strategy with aquaculture businesses to keep any possible disruption during the construction phase to a minimum.

With the SSE Renewables-owned Viking Energy project gaining momentum over recent months leading to an investment announcement earlier in June, opponent Sustainable Shetland has been lodging objections to every planning application linked to the project.

A decision by energy regulator Ofgem as to whether or not the subsea link to the Scottish mainland will be built is expected to be announced next month.

Hay described the approval of the cable works licence application as “extremely disappointing”.

He added: “The well founded objections were, as usual, ignored. It is also a matter for concern that something of this magnitude was dealt with under delegated powers so that councillors didn’t even have to discuss the application.

“It would seem that SSE/VE are pressing Ofgem for a quick decision. That is why they are trying to fit as many pieces of the jigsaw in place as fast as they can, aided and abetted by the SIC.

“We must hope that Ofgem does its prime task of looking after consumers interests properly rather than promoting the (expensive) green agenda and the capitalists seeking to take advantage of it.”