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Council / Councillors request report on Viking Energy petition

Photo: Steven Christie

COUNCILLORS have agreed to request a report in connection to a petition which expressed concerns over the impact of the Viking Energy wind farm construction and how it is monitored.

The petition was submitted by campaign group Save Shetland on Monday.

At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday morning, council leader Steven Coutts moved to instruct an SIC officer to provide a report on the issue. He was seconded by depute leader Emma Macdonald, with no discussion or debate taking place.

Councillors could either note the petition, or request a report. They were not able to make a decision on the substantive matter in the absence of a report.

While the petition contained over 1,200 signatures, the group said that around 500 of them were from Shetland residents.

It appeared to refer to only 44 signatures when presented to councillors, but Save Shetland said the group only had postcodes, not full addresses as requested – resulting in a last minute scramble to obtain people’s details.

To be competent, a petition to the council must be signed by at least 20 people who are ordinarily resident in Shetland.

The petition reads in full: “Due to many concerns being raised regarding the sufficiency and effectiveness of the environmental protection measures currently being employed by RJ McLeod, contractors to the Viking Energy wind farm, we, the undersigned, call for all construction work to be suspended immediately until an independent monitoring programme has been established to oversee the work and ensure all conditions are fully met.”

Ernie Ramaker of Save Shetland said the request from councillors for more information was “good news, and we look forward to reading the report”.

“Frequent, truly independent monitoring is of the utmost importance for a project of this scale and impact,” he said.

Viking Energy Wind Farm spokesperson Aaron Priest previously said that 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 partnership with statutory consultees like 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.”

Construction on the 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm and the associated transmission link project started last year.