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Campaigners confirm Viking complaints  

Credit:  The Shetland News, www.shetland-news.co.uk 16 December 2010 ~~

Campaigners opposing plans for a massive wind farm in Shetland have confirmed they are filing complaints against nine councillors who voted for the project last Tuesday.

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland said the nine councillors, including convener Sandy Cluness, had breached the code of conduct by voting for the Viking Energy project in which they had an interest.

All bar one of Shetland Islands Council’s 22 members are trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, which has a 45 per cent stake in the proposed 127 turbine development, one of the largest in Europe.

The trust took over the council’s share in the project, which is being developed jointly with power giant Scottish & Southern Energy.

On Tuesday seven councillors refused to debate the issue due to their conflict of interest, with four councillors involved directly as directors and project co-ordinator for Viking Energy Ltd.

Despite a 69 page report by the council’s planning department recommending objecting to the wind farm due to its environmental impact, nine councillors voted in favour of it going ahead.

They were influenced by a four page briefing paper published the day before the meeting by SIC head of economic development Neil Grant, which highlighted the huge windfall that would be generated for the isles’ economy and public coffers if the venture went ahead.

Mr Grant estimated the wind farm could bring more than £1 billion into the Shetland economy over its 25 year lifetime.

Three councillors voted against the proposal and four voted for an amendment calling for a public inquiry.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox said: “Such shoddy treatment of their planning officials report must be viewed in the context of where our councillors sit on this project.

“These individuals also hold positions on Shetland Charitable Trust, 90 per cent owners of Viking Energy Limited, and 50 per cent partners in the Viking Energy Partnership.

“Given this clear conflict of interest it is Sustainable Shetland’s view that their decision was taken as developers rather than planning consultees and representatives of their constituents.

“This flies in the face of ethical standards in public life, and is a failure to properly represent their own electorate.”

The group believes a majority of islanders oppose the wind farm after 3,474 people signed a petition against it and a series of public consultation meetings organised by the council showed 75 per cent opposition.

The Scottish government’ energy consents unit has received 2,300 formal objections and 900 expressions of support.

Other objections have been received from Scottish natural Heritage, bird charity RSPB, Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Bird Club and the John Muir Trust.

Mr Fox said people in Shetland were “furious” about the councillors’ decision.

“Despite all this opposition, and their clear conflict of interest, these nine councillors saw fit to approve their own project, and remove the last chance of automatically triggering a public local inquiry,” he said.

“It is inconceivable that a project of this size, 127 turbines, each 145 metres high, 104 kilometres of roads and up to 13 quarries, shoehorned into an island group as small as ours should not go to a public local inquiry”.

The councillors against whom complaints will be submitted are convener Cluness, vice convener Josie Simpson, Rick Nickerson, Jim Budge, Addie Doull; Betty Fullerton, Laura Baisley, Gussie Angus and Robert Henderson.

Source:  The Shetland News, www.shetland-news.co.uk 16 December 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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