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Council / Proposal to change location of Viking Energy concrete batching plants rejected by councillors

Construction of the large wind farm started in summer of 2020. Photo: Shetland News

COUNCILLORS have gone against the recommendations of planning officers by refusing applications to move the location of two proposed Viking Energy concrete batching plants.

Councillors Moraig Lyall and Andrea Manson both spoke up against the plans at a meeting of the committee on Monday afternoon.

Planning officers had recommended that they be approved, and while committee chair Emma Macdonald proposed to follow their lead, she received no support.

It means that Viking Energy will have to revert to previously consented locations for the two plants, which the developer says will mean longer drives with time-sensitive concrete and less efficiency.

Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall. Photo: Shetland News

The previously consented plants will be located on the outer reaches of the wind farm site.

The two fresh applications went in front of the committee on Monday – one for a batching plant around 1.5km north west of the Skellister loch and another 1.8km north west of Upper Kergord.

Each development would also include the creation of a 100m x 80m compacted stone platform and associated infrastructure.

The plans went in front of the committee because of unresolved objections from community councils.

Viking Energy already has consent for three batching plants near to construction compounds, including one just south of Voe which is already in operation.

The move to bring the other two further into the centre of the construction area was designed to make operations more efficient.

Local campaign groups Sustainable Shetland and Save Shetland also objected to the plans.

They raised concerns over the suitability of the sites – saying they would be better built near existing work compounds – and questioned the environmental impact.

Other concerns previously raised about the plants included the impact of cement dust, construction noise for residents and disturbance to birds.

But planning officers advised councillors to approve the temporary planning permission because with a series of conditions they would be acceptable in “location, scale, design and form”.

The plant sites would have been reinstated after construction of the wind farm.

A number of questions were asked of planning officers and also SSE consents manager Jamie Watt and Ryan MacLean of Viking Energy’s principal contractor RJ McLeod.

But Shetland Central member Lyall believed that the two applications should be refused partly because of greater awareness around the environmental benefits of peatland since the wind farm’s original consent.

She also raised concerns over the potential for dust emanating from the plant sites, the impact on birdlife and the lack of electricity and water at the new sites.

Lyall said the objections of neighbours to the proposed developments were valid.

Both of her moves to refuse the applications were seconded by North Mainland member Andrea Manson.

“We must protect things that are precious to us,” Manson said, referring to limiting the impact of dust on the likes of the Burn of Lunklet.

During the meeting Shetland Islands Council’s planning manager Iain McDiarmid stressed that councillors need to turn down applications on material planning grounds.

He referred to the prospect of refusals being appealed – potentially at a cost to the council.

In January last year a planning committee decision to refuse temporary permission for the Sella Ness accommodation camp was overturned following an appeal.

The council was also ordered to pay expenses of the applicant’s appeal.