December 17, 2012

Viking judicial hearing confirmed

Written by Shetland News | 17 December 2012 |

Up Helly Aa day will see a more sombre Viking related event taking place in the Edinburgh Court Session next month.

On Monday anti-Viking Energy campaign group Sustainable Shetland confirmed they would proceed with a judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision to grant consent to the 103 turbine development.

The group voted unanimously last week to go ahead with the legal move, which they hope will lead to a local public inquiry into the wind farm.

The case has been set down for 29 January and is expected to last four or even five days.

The decision to proceed follows a court order that limits the group’s costs to £5,000 if they lose the case. Scottish ministers are having their costs capped at £30,000.

Sustainable Shetland argue that the government acted unlawfully or unreasonably when it granted consent in April for a 457 megawatt wind farm to be built across Shetland’s central mainland.

The group says the number of objections was not taken into proper consideration, that ministers gave inadequate reasons for not holding a public inquiry and failed to take account of the impact on whimbrel, a protected species, and the landscape.

The government had previously argued that no public inquiry was necessary after Shetland Islands Council supported the development, despite thousands of people signing a petition opposing the project.

Critics said there had been a conflict of interest as all councillors also sat as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, which has a 45 per cent stake in the wind farm, however they were later cleared of breaching the code of conduct by the Standards Commission.

Viking Energy, a partnership between the charitable trust, local businessmen and Scottish and Southern Energy, hope to start erecting the first turbines in 2017.

Sustainable Shetland will be represented by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC, and will be paying their own legal costs from moneys raised through a variety of fundraising efforts.

When he successfully argued for the campaigners’ costs to be limited, Sir Crispin told the court the Viking Energy was five times the size of a normal wind farm.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Andrew Halcrow said that they would not have gone ahead with the judicial review if their costs had not been protected.

He said it was only the fifth such order to be awarded in Scotland and had been recommended by the Scottish government.

“We are not just doing this for devilment,” Halcrow said. “It’s a serious attempt to try and overturn the Scottish ministers’ granting of consent, because we feel it was not done legally.

“We feel they did not look fully at the negative aspects of the wind farm and there is a definite legal challenge to be made.”

Halcrow said he understood that Viking Energy would be represented at the hearing, even though the case was not being taken against them directly and they had no reason to be there.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said Scottish ministers were considering the petition.

“Given that the petition is a live case before the court it would be inappropriate to comment on the petition,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Viking Energy said they had no comment to make at this stage.

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