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Council / Windfarm developer alleges ‘lack of justification’ behind planning application refusal

An aerial view of the Scar Quilse compound - at the northern end of the Lang Kames - where concrete is currently being made. Photo: Viking Energy

SHETLAND Islands Council – acting as the local planning authority – fell into “serious error” when elected members considered two Viking Energy applications last year, the wind farm’s developer has claimed.

It comes as an appeal has been lodged against the refusal of two applications to move the location of previously consented concrete batching plants in September.

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The appeals were submitted shortly before Christmas and Shetland Islands Council has been invited to respond.

A spokesperson for the council said the local authority would not be making any media comment on the matter at this time.

Windfarm developer SSE said in its appeal that the council, as the local planning authority, failed to undertake a “balancing exercise” when considering the applications – meaning it “abrogated its duties”.

It alleges there was “serious error” at play over the approach elected members adopted when determining the applications, taking into account “irrelevant considerations”.

Among the reasons behind the refusal was the “impact” on peatlands and the environment, the “additional unnecessary disturbance to ground nesting birds” and the “high likelihood” of dust blowing onto hillside and watercourses.

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Local campaign groups Sustainable Shetland and Save Shetland had objected to the plans, as well as community councils.

SSE, however, claims “none of the reasons for refusal can be supported in light of the lack of justification provided, and the weight of evidence to the contrary”.

The appellant further claims that the committee failed to give any “weight to the views of consultees” when determining the applications.

It alleges for instance that advice from environment agency SEPA “was not taken into account, or if it was it is unclear how it was balanced against the [public] representations”.

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“If the committee had conducted this exercise and attached due weight to SEPA’s position, then the committee should have granted permission subject to appropriate conditions,” SSE said in its appeal.

The decision, made by Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee in September, went against the recommendation of officers.

Viking Energy had applied to move two previously consented batching plants nearer to where the concrete is needed for turbine bases to work more efficiently.

The areas in question are on the east and west of the construction site. Concrete batching, however, will continue to take place at the north compound outside Voe regardless.

The move to reject both applications was led by Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall, who was backed by Shetland North’s Andrea Manson.

Committee chair Emma Macdonald won no seconder for her motion to approve the plans.

SSE claims in its appeal to the Scottish Government that the council should have approved the applications if it took everything into consideration.

“The planning authority took into account irrelevant considerations, and failed to take into account or attach due weight to relevant considerations,” it added.

The appellant concluded that the applications are in accordance with the local development plan and called on the Scottish Government’s planning appeals department to grant permission, subject to appropriate conditions.

Speaking after the original decision, a spokesperson for Viking Energy Wind Farm said that the refusal meant concrete batches will “unnecessarily need to be transported over longer distances and there will be greater use of the public road network in the central mainland for concrete deliveries as a consequence”.

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