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Council / Wind farm petition to be considered by councillors on Wednesday

Photo: Steven Christie

A PETITION signed by more than 1,200 people raising concerns over the environmental impact of the Viking Energy wind farm construction is to go in front of councillors on Wednesday.

Despite the petition only being handed into Shetland Islands Council earlier today (Monday), it will get an airing at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.

Council convener Malcolm Bell said: “A petition has been received and will be considered by members at the full council meeting scheduled for Wednesday.”

The petition has been handed in by campaign group Save Shetland, which says there is concern that the wind farm construction work is “not being independently monitored and scrutinised”.

“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 have called for construction work to be halted until concerns have been addressed, and the “community have confidence and assurance that the impact of this development is minimised as far as possible”.

Shetland Islands Council, the local planning authority, previously said an independent monitoring officer from engineering company Ramboll UK Limited is employed by Viking Energy Wind Farm LLP to help it monitor the project’s compliance with the terms of the various conditions in place.

Spokesperson for Viking Energy Wind Farm Aaron Priest said independent scrutiny of wind farm construction and related monitoring programmes is already in place and is the legal responsibility of the council’s planning service and the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit, in consultation with statutory consultees such as Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

“The council’s scrutiny of the wind farm’s construction is enshrined through existing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations and planning law, and the related monitoring programmes for the project and site have already been designed, proposed and approved through planning conditions as is normal,” he added.

“All works being undertaken by principal contractor RJ McLeod, and its numerous local sub-contractors and workers, are being conducted to a high standard and in full compliance with the agreed Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) for the Viking Wind Farm, and in accordance with planning conditions.

“Environmental managers from both SSE Renewables and RJ McLeod conduct rigorous daily monitoring of environmental, archaeological and geological works, in addition to overall scrutiny being applied to the project by the independent Planning Monitoring Officer appointed by Shetland Islands Council.”

Priest pointed to planning monitoring audit reports regularly produced, with feature site visits. The most recent one has just been published online.

He added that purpose of the Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group (SWEAG) is to “bring together expert opinion to principally advise Shetland Islands Council on the execution of Viking Wind Farm’s Habitat Management Plan”.

“The group brings together an exemplary level of expertise and experience and plays a specific role to advise on key environmental deliverables such as Habitat Management, provide a platform to share views and influence environmental legislation, and provide a mechanism for communication between Viking Wind Farm and key environmental stakeholders,” he added.