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Council / Petition handed to council over wind farm construction

A second planning monitoring audit report, meanwhile, has been released

A recent photo of the Viking wind farm construction site. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

A PETITION featuring more than 1,200 signatures has been handed into Shetland Islands Council expressing concern that the Viking Energy wind farm construction is “not being independently monitored and scrutinised”.

Campaign group Save Shetland, which organised the petition, has requested that it is considered at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday – and it has also called for construction to halt until concerns have been addressed.

Meanwhile, a second planning monitoring report on the construction of the wind farm says that towards the end of last year work had “progressed in an environmentally aware manner”.

A site visit was undertaken on 1 December by an independent planning monitoring officer from UK company Ramboll.

A planning monitoring officer will undertake site-based audits at monthly intervals to check compliance with the numerous conditions of consent for the controversial 103-turbine wind farm and its associated works.

The new audit report, which follows the inaugural one published last year, highlighted that the project’s environmental clerk of works said that during the month of November work was carried out in an overall “environmentally aware manner”.

While an independent monitoring officer from Ramboll is employed by Viking Energy Wind Farm LLP to help the council monitor the project’s compliance with the terms of the various conditions in place, Save Shetland says more should be done.

“There have been a number of environmental incidents since work began on this project, and it is felt that this could have been avoided had the accountability expected by the community, been in place,” the group’s Ernie Ramaker said.

The campaigners said the Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group (SWEAG) “must be independent and meet on a regular monthly basis, which is not happening”.

“We are seeking all construction work on the project be halted until such time as the above concerns have been satisfactorily addressed, and the community have confidence and assurance that the impact of this development is minimised as far as possible,” Ramaker said.

The second planning monitoring audit report, meanwhile, said that one incident had been reported on the new Sandwater road since the first audit – discoloured water entering the nearby loch via a culvert on 29 October due to a burst pump.

Water samples were collected from Sandwater, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), and the results confirmed that the concentration of total suspended solids was below the trigger threshold.

After the incident the principal contractor took action to ensure pump outlets are monitored for the first 30 minutes of operation, the report said.

Another incident was recorded on 19 November at the track which joins the new Kergord access road, with a “peat slump” occurring while an excavator was working in the area.

“Side casting of peat ceased after downslope movement was observed by the operator in the peat turves above the cutting for the Kergord access track,” the report said.

“The peat was subsequently excavated to the mineral soil to stabilise the ground. It was reported that the slump happened following a period of heavy rain and the GCoW [geotechnical clerk of works] considered this to be a factor in the cause of the slump, as well as the presence of cut off drains and the increased thickness of peat in the area.

“The principal contractor subsequently removed peat from the area to a dedicated storage location, the peat risk register was updated, and an update was provided to personnel during the subsequent daily briefing. Regular inspections by the GCoW of this area are undertaken during the ongoing works.”

The report also noted that SSE will attend the next Shetland outdoor access forum meeting on 19 January to provide an update on the construction works and access plans.

It follows concerns from Shetland Islands Council’s outdoor access officer regarding a 300m buffer zone limiting access around the construction area, and lack of communication with the general public on the issue.

The planning monitoring audit can be read online here.