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Newing residents wary after Viking correspondence

Residents in the Newing area of South Nesting say they feel wind farm developer SSE Renewables might try to “fob us off” after receiving “no real answers to our queries, concerns and fears”.

The group of residents approached the owners of the Viking Energy wind farm earlier this summer after it emerged the developer was planning to create a large ‘borrow pit’ to extract stone for tracks and turbine bases less than 500 metres from their homes.

The homeowners have now received a written response from Viking Energy Wind Farm (VEWF) stakeholder manager Aaron Priest, but say they are less than reassured by the content of his letter.

Last months the residents went public with their concerns, saying they should have been directly consulted during the planning process.

In his letter Priest said the existence of a borrow pit near Skellister Loch had been part of the Viking Energy project since first consented by Scottish Ministers in 2012, as well as during a subsequent application seeking variations to the existing planning permission.

Priest went on saying that Nesting and Lunnasting Community Council had been “specifically consulted by Scottish Ministers for its opinion on the application to vary the consent (which included the borrow pit search area near Skellister Loch) and no representation was made”.

He said the presence of a borrow pit “has been consistent throughout and I am not aware of a commitment being made, at any point, to remove it.”

The resident group, however, claims the developer is at fault and in breach of its own code of practise for noise and vibration consultation, known within the industry as BS5228.

Resident group spokeswoman Suzanne Malcolmson said the “community relations” section of BS5228 emphasises that “good relations with people living and working in the vicinity of site operations are of paramount importance”.

“It is suggested that good relations can be developed by keeping people informed of progress and by treating complaints fairly and expeditiously,” the code of practice states.

Malcolmson said that rather than through the community council, householders affected by the five-acre quarry should have been consulted directly with.

She asked: “Is it appropriate for VEWF to pass the responsibility of community relations and the dissemination of information to the local community to a third party?

“And if that was their intention, have they provided sufficient guidance to community councils on how this should be done. It seems like they are ‘passing the buck’ and this is most definitely not in the spirit of community relation as outlined in BS5228.”

Priest said that the company and its main contractor RJ McLeod were currently undertaking an analysis to determine “whether or not there remains a need to access and utilise [borrow pit] NBP06”, adding there remained a strong possibility that the consented borrow pit would be developed.

He also confirmed that the company was willing to carry out and pay for “industry standard” dilapidation surveys of the houses in the vicinity of the borrow pit.

“The project would welcome the opportunity to meet the request for condition surveys, in advance of any requirement to develop NBP06, if the residents would wish this to go ahead,” he said.

Malcolmson said the group welcomed this concession but no details have been given as to “how and when” these surveys would be carried out and whether “they will be rectifying any damage”.

Priest added that the liaison process with the affected householders would now be formalised in that they will be kept updated and informed on a regular basis.

Malcolmson responded: “We welcome this but Aaron Priest does not say how they will do this, and we have had no proposals or suggestion to try and arrange a meeting with VE.

“We essentially think they are trying to fob us off, with no real answers to our queries concerns and fears.”