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No room for more wind farms

Shetland has no room for more large wind farms, according to the council’s draft local development plan.

The plan, which goes out to public consultation for the next 12 weeks, says that Shetland Islands Council supports the development of renewable energy in a big way.

However planners have identified that the only parts of the isles suitable for building a large wind farm have been taken up by the proposed Viking Energy development.

Even small scale wind farms and large individual turbines may find it hard to gain permission, if the council sticks to the guidelines outlined in the draft plan.

Councillors will not debate the plan until after the consultation ends on 7 October, and even then it must go to Scottish ministers for final approval.

The plan’s purpose is to offer guidance to developers about where they could erect onshore wind turbines, ranging from very large developments producing more than 50 megawatts to micro turbines generating a few kilowatts.

The draft plan says Shetland is well placed to make a positive contribution to Scotland’s ambitious targets to produce 30 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020, thus reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent, which would rise to 80 per cent by 2050.

It says the council is “committed to harnessing the benefits from renewable energy for the good of the community at large”.

The plan claims to encourage the development of “a diverse range of renewable energy technologies to maximise social and economic opportunities whilst protecting the environment”.

Proposals will be supported, it adds, where they can demonstrate there are no unacceptable impacts on people, natural and water environment, landscape, historic environment and built environment and cultural heritage.

However a series of maps reveal that the only area where the impact is deemed to be acceptable has already been snapped up by Viking Energy, and even that is within a 30 kilometre radius of concern surrounding Scatsta airport.

Even the proposed five turbine wind farm in North Yell is deemed to be in an area of moderate sensitivity for its landscape.

The development plan does not set in stone what the council’s planning committee will or will not permit.

Indeed the council voted against their own planning officials’ advice to object to the Viking Energy wind farm on a range of grounds, including peat, landscape, natural heritage and carbon emissions.

The draft plan and consultation forms can be found at www.shetland.gov.uk/ldp.

Paper copies can also be viewed at the council’s planning offices at Grantfield in Lerwick.

The consultation will run until 5pm on 7 October and more information can be found by calling the council’s development plans team on 01595 744800.