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Energy / Energy Isles hopeful of ‘quick decision’ from government after planning committee offers no objections

Norwegian company Statkraft now plans to develop a 18 turbine wind farm in Yell. Photo: Energy Isles

SHETLAND Islands Council’s planning committee has offered no objections to the proposed Energy Isles wind farm in Yell.

The application for the 18-turbine development came in front of the committee on Monday afternoon.

But as its generating capacity is more than 50MW, the final decision lies with the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit.

The council is only a formal consultee in the process.

The wind farm’s developer said in response it was “delighted” as its plans passed another hurdle, with its project manager Rebecca Todd hoping for a quick decision from the government.

The capacity is approximately 126MW and its turbines will have a maximum tip height of 180m. For comparison the height of Viking Energy’s 103 turbines will be 155m.

The Energy Isles project, which is led by Norwegian developer Statkraft and backed by a consortium of largely local companies, drew some concern among consultees for its impact on blanket bog, and its location in north west Yell.

The plans have been scaled down over recent years, however, and both SEPA and NatureScot for instance withdrew objections subject to planning conditions.

At Monday’s meeting a substantial report from the planning service went into front of councillors, with members keen to praise the work which went into the paper.

Members of the committee were recommended to take a ‘no objection’ view of the development, if appropriate planning conditions were imposed.

Lerwick North member Malcolm Bell said in debate that “there’s a balance to be struck…I think in this case it is quite clearly evident”.

He said he felt the benefits – such as on the economy and renewable energy generation – outweighed the impacts.

Bell proposed that the committee offered no objections, with Shetland South’s Robbie McGregor seconding.

But Shetland Central member Davie Sandison said he still had concerns over the offsite peat restoration plans, which he described as a bit of a “leap of faith”.

And he also raised concern over the ability for the council to oversee the plethora of planning conditions set to be imposed should the application go through.

Sandison questioned “whether we actually have enough resources to make sure we enforce and monitor those conditions”.

But with the mitigations proposed he was content to support Bell’s motion.

Energy Isles Shetland’s project manager Rebecca Todd said: “We are delighted that the Shetland Islands Council planning committee has voted to support the plans for the Energy Isles Wind Farm in Yell.

“We hope Scottish ministers will now make a quick decision on the final consent of the project so construction can begin as soon as possible and we can deliver a wind farm that maximises the benefits of Shetland’s emerging renewable energy sector for the local community.”

Derek Jamieson, director of Energy Isles Limited added: “The strong support of local folk, including the businesses involved in Energy Isles Limited and supporters in the community in the North Isles, has been absolutely fundamental to today’s success.

“The Energy Isles Wind Farm will deliver 126MW of renewable energy, help Shetland to decarbonise, generate £17.3m of investment in the Isles during the development and construction phase, and allow the creation of a community benefit fund of £19.9m over the life of the wind farm to spent in the North Isles.”

Meanwhile the meeting was the last planning committee session of the current council before May’s election.

Board vice chair Andrea Manson, who was presiding over the meeting, took a moment at its finale to praise planning staff working under an “intense work schedule”.

“We as an island greatly appreciate all that they do for us,” the councillor said as she closed the meeting. “They do a remarkable job.”