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Community / Residents unhappy with Viking borrow pit plans close to their homes

SSE Renewables says all permits are in place and work will get under way in October

The residents of Newing feeling angry and ignored: (left to right) Magnus Bradley, Suzanne Malcolmson and Justin Watson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

RESIDENTS living in the settlement of Newing, in South Nesting, are up in arms after realising that there is little they can do to prevent a massive borrow pit being opened up less than 500 metres from their homes to extract aggregate for the 103 turbine Viking Energy wind farm.

They fear blasting, rock breaking and the associated construction traffic will turn their lives upside down and are asking for an urgent meeting with developer SSE Renewables to address their concern.

The formally titled NBP06 at the eastern fringes of the wind farm site is the only borrow pit located anywhere near a settlement, and sits just above the six houses that make up the hamlet of Newing.

Speaking on behalf of the local resident group, representing four of the five inhabited houses at Newing, Suzanne Malcolmson said she hoped that “in an ideal situation the powers that be would realise that a quarry of this magnitude is too close to residential properties, and look elsewhere for the aggregate they need”.

But developer SSE Renewables said it had every right to extract rock from the borrow pit granted by Scottish ministers as part of the varied section 36 consent on 24 May 2019.

The indicative layout, drainage plan and management plan for up to 10 borrow pits, including NBP06, was approved by the council’s planning department on 30 July last year.

Malcolmson said at no time during the planning process had there been any correspondence from either the developer or the planning authority. She said the Newing residents should have been classed ‘neighbours’ and, hence, been notified.

Borrow pit NBP06 is located a few hundred metres from the houses at Newing (highlighted). Image: SSE Renewables

But it was only after the residents heard of the plans through the grapevine in May this year that they started asking questions, and from the responses they have received so far they do not feel re-assured.

They said they feel angry and ignored, and fear for their quality of life as well as for the integrity of their homes once rock blasting commences.

Magnus Bradley added that “so much is being done for the wildlife” on the site, while people living in the vicinity of the wind farm are being disregarded.

Justin Watson, who lives closest to the planned borrow pit, said he cannot understand how a quarry that is less than 500 metres away from residential properties got planning consent when the Kergord borrow pits are at least 1,200 metres away from the nearest houses.

“The health and wellbeing of the residents here should have been put into consideration,” he said.

Questions submitted to the Viking Community Liaison Group via the Nesting and Lunnasting community council were never raised at a meeting of the liaison group on 20 July.

Watson added that there had been some engagement from SSE’s community liaison officer John Robertson, “who turned up out of the blue” one day in late August, but questions put to the company via him have so far not been answered.

A spokesman for SSE Renewables said this morning (Tuesday) that the company was currently considering a number of representations about the proposed borrow pit (NBP06) and “we will respond to these shortly”.

Spokesman for Viking Energy wind farm Aaron Priest meanwhile said: “Plans for a borrow pit adjacent to Skellister Loch are a longstanding part of the consent for the wind farm and are fully detailed in the related consent conditions.

“In response to an approach in June 2021, further information was provided to local residents on the intentions to access, develop and operate the proposed borrow pit (named NBP06).

“All blasting taking place during the wind farm’s construction period is fully monitored and pre-notified to Shetland Islands Council. All blasting across the wind farm site sits well within defined statutory limits and is subject to comprehensive ongoing monitoring.”

The hamlet of Newing is overlooking South Nesting Bay. Photo: Shetland News

Viking is keen to develop this particular borrow pit, more than a kilometre away from the nearest wind turbine, because “ground investigations suggest that the rock in the area is particularly suitable for construction purposes”.

Work to develop the borrow pit has however been delayed by two to three months to allow nesting birds in the area to fledge. Extracting first rock from the borrow pit is now expected to commence in late October.

Meanwhile, SSE Renewable’s principal contractor RJ McLeod has agreed to organise “dilapidation/condition surveys” at the Newing properties, which is planned to get underway in the week of 13 September.

The residents however hope they can still convince the developer to move the borrow pit “somewhereaway from housing and closer to the location it is required”.

In a statement to Shetland News, they said: “Failing that we would like to know what we can expect in real terms not technical engineering terms, how we can deal with it, how long will this go on for, who we communicate with if things go wrong.

“What happens if our houses are damaged in the short or the long term, who monitors the work and how regularly.

“As a community our small hamlet is deeply affected and we are ‘lay’ people who do not have the technical knowhow to understand the information that is available online (if you can find it) and what the implications on every day life will be like only 500m from blasting drilling and excavation works.”

Meanwhile, Nesting and Lunnasting Community Council has objected to an application by SSE Renewables to extend working hours on site to 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, and 7am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.