The Scottish government is facing a legal challenge to its decision in April to approve the Viking
Energy wind farm in Shetland.
Campaigners opposing the 103 turbine development this week lodged a petition with Edinburgh’s Court of Session calling for a judicial review of energy minister Fergus Ewing’s ruling.
A hearing has been set for 24 October for judges to decide if Scottish ministers have a case to answer. The government has yet to decide if it will be represented at the hearing.
Campaign group Sustainable Shetland, which has more than 820 members and generated almost 3,500 signatures objecting to the wind farm, feels let down that there was no public inquiry into the development despite the level of opposition.
The government’s energy consents unit that dealt with the application received 2,736 objections along with 1,114 letters of support for the project.
In his judgment on 4 April, Mr Ewing said no public inquiry had been called because the local council did not object to the plan.
However opponents say the council was too closely involved in the project, with all but one councillor also sitting on Shetland Charitable Trust, which is the joint partner in the Viking Energy development with Scottish & Southern Energy.
The Standards Commission on ethical behavior in public office found that councillors had not breached the code of conduct when they supported the wind farm plans, despite planning officials recommending objection.
Sustainable Shetland said it was challenging the ministers’ decision to approve the wind farm “on grounds including the impact on protected species and landscape and the failure to hold a public local inquiry”.
The group is challenging the process by which the decision was made, however the wind farm’s backers have said the energy consents unit handled the application process with “extraordinary care”.
The group has managed to raise thousands of pounds to lodge the expensive legal bid to reappraise the wind farm decision, which has created widespread division within the island community.
They have asked the Court of Session to protect them from having to pay the legal expenses of the other party.
Vice chairman Frank Hay said: “We feel the decision to grant approval was a bad one and had not taken into account the view of the people in the affected areas.
“I think if a public inquiry had been held and it had gone against us we would have accepted that, but the way it turned out has left people feeling rather aggrieved.
“All we can do now is trust in the independence and impartiality of the Scottish courts.”
If the Court of Session decides there is a case to answer it will set a new date for a hearing.
Meanwhile Viking Energy is continuing with its plans after Shetland Charitable Trust last month voted to invest a further £6.3 million to take the project to the construction stage.
Chairman Bill Manson said as far as the company was concerned it was “business as usual”.
He said: “This is a petition for a review of a decision by Scottish ministers and we have every confidence in the processes that were followed.”
A government spokeswoman said: “Scottish ministers are considering this petition and whether to be represented at the hearing.”
Chris Bunyan, of the Windfarm Supporters Group, said it was Sustainable Shetland’s “democratic right” to challenge the government’s decision, but called it “their last throw of the dice”.
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