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Government to appeal after wind farm planning consent withdrawn

The Scottish government is to appeal a court ruling to withdraw planning consent from the Viking Wind Farm development in Shetland.

On Wednesday morning Lady Clark of Calton set aside the consent granted to the 103 turbine development by Scottish ministers in April 2012, following a judicial review brought by anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland.

Lady Clark held that the decision to allow the 370 megawatt wind farm to be built was “incompetent” because the Viking Energy Partnership did not have an electricity generating licence.

She also said ministers failed to take proper regard of the European Wild Birds Directive, relating specifically to whimbrel, a rare species of wader with 295 breeding pairs in Shetland who form 95% of the UK population.

The court also ordered Scottish ministers to pay £60,000 of Sustainable Shetland’s legal expenses.

Shortly after the announcement, the Scottish government said they would appeal against the judgement in the next few days.

A government spokeswoman said: “Ministers do not agree that the application was incompetent under Schedule 9 of the Electricity Act, nor do they agree that they failed to take proper account of their obligations in under the EU Wild Birds Directive in the decision making process.”

This is the first time that a judicial review of a wind farm development in Scotland has been upheld.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Frank Hay said the group was “heartened” by the outcome, saying it reflected months of hard work by all concerned.

“This ruling is hugely important,” he said.

“We have always felt that this project was wrong for Shetland – a belief upheld by our own planning department, who advised that Shetland Islands Council should recommend refusal to the consent.”

Viking Energy issued a statement saying they would not comment until the detail of the legal judgment had been issued. Sustainable Shetland had hoped to be granted a public inquiry into the development, but this was refused by Lady Clark.

The government appeal will be heard by three judges in the Inner House of the Court of Session, which could take months.