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Community / Wind farm referendum suggestion ‘long overdue’, says campaign group

One of the Viking Energy wind farm's 103 turbine bases. Photo: Dave Donaldson for Viking Energy

A SUGGESTION from backbench Tory MPs that referendums should take place in communities with proposed wind farms has been described as “long overdue” by local campaign group Sustainable Shetland.

It comes after the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee, which includes all backbench MPs, made a series of recommendations about the energy market.

Among these were referendums on proposed onshore wind farms, and a discount scheme on energy bills for those who would be living within four miles of turbines.

Sustainable Shetland has been campaigning against the 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm for more than a decade.

Construction of the 443MW wind farm, which is due to go live towards the end of next year, got under way in 2020.

The group said it wants to see “sustainable renewable energy projects in Shetland which are fit for scale and fit for purpose, and  real community benefit”.

Its chairman Frank Hay said the idea of holding referendums for onshore wind farms was “long overdue”.

“This was, of course, never properly undertaken in the case of the Viking wind farm,” he said.

“Assurances were made that ‘if the people of Shetland don’t want it, it won’t happen’. That turned out to be an empty promise.

“The lack of a proper referendum or inquiry about Viking led to the action that was taken against the planning decision.”

The committee also raised the concept of free or discounted energy for people living near wind farms.

Locally there has been a push for a ‘Shetland tariff’ – cheaper electricity for isles residents given there will be a large exporter of energy on their doorstep.

Hay said the idea of discounted energy bills “implies that it is now accepted that there are significant downsides to living in the vicinity of them.

“Since many wind farms are already constructed or under construction near to peoples’ homes discounts might be applicable to many situations.

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“It may be the case that only new projects would be considered in this way with discounts agreed before planning permission is granted.

“The calls for a local tariff here will probably not be successful, this would have needed to have been agreed long ago.

“If such a tariff were to be introduced, other areas would be quick to put in requests for similar treatment.”

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