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Transport / Proposed North Isles developments bolster case for fixed links, councillor says

THREE large developments proposed for Unst and Yell strengthen the case for fixed links to the North Isles.

That is view of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson, who is one of three representatives for the North Isles.

Consent is already in place for the Beaw Field wind farm in the south east of Yell, which could host up to 17 turbines, while the planning process is still ongoing for the larger Energy Isles farm in the north west of the island.

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Up in Unst Shetland Space Centre proposes to create hundreds of new jobs with plans centred around a satellite launch facility.

Against a backdrop of an ageing ferry fleet Thomson recently called for fixed links, such as tunnels, to be bumped up the political agenda and he committed to write to the government to push for talks.

The council does not have the financial clout to install fixed links itself, and instead would need funding.

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Councillor Ryan Thomson.

Thomson said that the potential increase in activity in heavy traffic to and from the North Isles on the ferry service could pose problems.

“There is little doubt that additional transport to and from the North Isles over the coming years will put pressure on the existing service, and it’s important we make sure and liaise with companies, organisations, community councils and community groups to make sure any pressures on the services are addressed and minimal,” he said.

“Going forward, additional commercial activity for the North Isles simply offers even more reasons to speed up the fixed link process.”

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He said fixed links have been discussed with Shetland Space Centre, “but only informally, and nothing concrete has been discussed by way of taking it forward”.

Planning documents for the Beaw Field wind farm from developer Peel Energy say that the most “suitable port of entry for turbine components bound for the site has been identified as the construction jetty at Sullom Voe”.

Components would then be transported overland to Toft to be shipped to Yell via the existing Toft/Ulsta ferry.

Peel added that the use of the Yell ferry could be restricted to quiet periods during the day when one or two smaller components could be transported with other traffic.

“The use of the vessels at night time is also considered a practical delivery schedule for larger sections as it may not always be feasible to transport blade/tower components at the same time as general traffic.”

Energy Isles developer Statkraft, meanwhile, would provide a construction traffic management plan that will detail the operational steps necessary to reduce the impact on the road and ferry network.

“This will be discussed in detail with SIC and ferry stakeholders prior to construction activities commencing on site,” its application says.

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However, initial plans said that not all components would fit on the ferry, with a barge instead mooted.

Deliveries could take place by barge between midnight and 6am.

Fourteen of the Energy Isles turbines would have a tip height of 200m, which is larger than Viking Energy’s 155m, with the remaining nine reaching 180m.

Planning documents for Shetland Space Centre say that much of the traffic associated with all phases of the development will access Unst via Belmont ferry terminal.

The largest vehicle to visit the site during construction would be an articulated vehicle.

It also notes that there could be a sizeable interest in people coming to Unst to view launches, although it admits that the novelty may wear off after the first take-off.

The space centre appears to be the project which could begin first, with construction aimed to begin in June with the first launch in spring 2022.

The timeline for the potential wind farms is unclear, with possible subsidy from the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference scheme likely to be an enabler. The next round is slated for 2021.

A new £5 million road planned for Cullivoe in Yell, meanwhile, “future proofs” a possible fixed link connection to Unst.

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