Plans for a huge wind farm in Shetland have been blown off course – by a rare wading bird.
A judge’s ruling has left the 103-turbine scheme in limbo, over fears it could endanger the islands’ threatened whimbrel population.
When Viking Energy Partnership won permission for a £556million 103-turbine scheme in April, it was projected to be “one of the most productive wind farms in the world”. But now a judge has ruled that the decision should be set aside because it could threaten the fragile habitat of the whimbrel.
Lady Clark’s ruling came as campaign group Sustainable Shetland challenged the decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Developers had claimed the wind farm would generate about £30million-a year, two-thirds of which would go to the Shetland Charitable Trust, and create 140 temporary and 34 permanent jobs.
It would be the third-largest wind farm in Scotland, and Viking claims it would be able to power about 175,000 homes.
But Lady Clark said: “I am not satisfied that the respondents – the Scottish ministers – have complied with their obligations under the Wild Birds Directive 2009.
“This case involves a very large, multi-million-pound development with important consequences.
“It is not to be disputed by anyone, that whimbrel are a declining species in the UK, with approximately 95 per cent of 290 breeding pairs in Shetland.”
The Scottish Government said it had careful regard to the potential impact on the environment.
It noted that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) believed a reduction in the scale of the proposed development was still likely to result in a significant impact of national interest on the conservation status of UK whimbrels.
Lady Clark said: “I am in no doubt that the complete failure of the respondents to address explicitly legal issues arising out of the Wild Birds Directive 2009, and explain their approach to the decision-making in the case, has caused great difficulty in dealing with their decision.
“I am of the opinion that there were plainly live issues in this case of a material and potentially determining nature about whimbrel and the Wild Birds Directive 2009, to which the respondents ought to have been alerted.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scottish Ministers are disappointed Lady Clark’s judgement was not in their favour and will now consider this judgement and its implications.”
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