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Community / Senior councillor calls on Viking Energy to abandon Newing quarry plans

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

A LOCAL councillor and former director of Viking Energy is calling on the wind farm developer to think again and abandon plans to develop a large borrow pit near houses at Newing, at South Nesting.

Alastair Cooper said he feels strongly about the situation local residents find themselves in and added that he believed the “community had been misled to some extent”.

Residents living in the settlement of Newing only recently became aware that developer SSE Renewables was pressing ahead with the quarry less than 500 metres from their homes.

They said they were left shocked and outraged by the prospect and felt they should have been told and consulted with during the planning process in 2019.

Cooper said that when he was involved in the project as a director on behalf of the local council ten years ago, the possibility a borrow pit to extract aggregate for the wind farm was considered but was discarded “as nonsense” because it was far too near to the houses.

Shetland north councillor Alastair Cooper: ‘the community had been misled to some extent”. Photo: Shetland News

The Shetland North councillor, who is the chairman of the council’s development committee, said the general belief at the time was the quarry would not happen, and admitted that no-one was aware that when planning came through in 2019 the Newing borrow pit was still in the plans.

He said SSE needed to “back off” and start seriously looking at moving the borrow pit to a different location within the vast Viking site.

“Talks between SSE and the neighbours at the 11th hour fall far short of what one would expect; these should have been done far, far sooner,” Cooper said.

“It was only when the residents started getting annoyed that Viking started to engage – and I think it is too little too late.

“SSE needs to think very seriously about the annoyance they are going to create, and the potential damage to the property by having a quarry at that site.”

He said he would raise the issue with senior representatives from SSE Renewables later this month.

Meanwhile, Newing residents as well as the Nesting and Lunnasting Community Council have objected to an application by SSE Renewables to extend the working hours for the planned borrow pit in an attempt to frustrate the company.

Cooper admits that this will not stop the quarry from being developed, but residents felt it was the only thing they could do because rescinding the planning permission for the borrow pit itself would be next to impossible.

The councillor added the community had lost its ability to influence the “direction of travel” when Shetland Charitable Trust decided not to invest further in the 103-turbine wind farm and the project became wholly owned by Perth-based SSE Renewables.

“It’s one of the things that annoys me,” he said.

SSE Renewables has been contacted with a request to respond to the points made by councillor Cooper, but it referred to a statement they issued earlier this week which said: “We are currently considering a number of representations about the proposed borrow pit and we will respond to these shortly.”