In one of the best attended AGMs Shetland has seen in many years, over 150 people packed into Whiteness and Weisdale public hall last night (Tuesday 9 June) to attend the first annual general meeting of campaign group Sustainable Shetland. Membership of which now stands at 592 and growing daily.
Members were told the local petition to Shetland councillors had reached a staggering 3558 validated signatures, over 95% of which came from within Shetland.
Chairman Billy Fox told the meeting “this clearly shows the level of opposition within the islands to this development, something which our councillors and parliamentarians cannot ignore". The petition is now being closed with the intention to present to council before the summer recess.
These numbers were compared to the SIC Blueprint for Education
with just 1286 responses, which the council considered a very good
return rate. The Sustainable Shetland petition, with nearly triple
the response rate, was reached with volunteer effort and a shoestring
Speakers from the floor highlighted the lack of representation from councillors. Some councillors even refusing to make any comment on the project, some to the point of declaring that Shetland councillors should take no part in the planning process but to let those out with Shetland decide our fate. Billy Fox pointed out that councillors “first and foremost duty was to represent their electorate, a local authority's remit was to provide services and infrastructure within a given budget, not to act as businessmen and developers", and on this they were “failing the people of Shetland”. Vice chair, Kevin Learmonth described it as “a failure of local democracy in Shetland”.
The meeting also heard that some planning committee members were not aware that as statutory consultees, their committee could recommend planning refusal. Other planning members were not aware that the 14 proposed new quarries would not come under normal quarry rules but would just be considered part of the main planning application to the Scottish Governments Energy Consents Unit.
“The level of ignorance from some councillors is simply staggering,” said the chairman.
The campaign is currently consulting legal advisers about the next step in their campaign against the Viking Energy project.
The meeting warmly welcomed the news that both Shetland Bird Club and Shetland Anglers Association, each with around 300 members, have said they would be making formal planning objections to the Viking Energy Wind farm.
Far from being a green project, Sustainable Shetland say the Viking Energy project could actually make global warming worse. Some carbon payback projections show it could take over 48 years to pay back the carbon created by destroying blanket peat, construction and operation. The wind farm is expected to last 25 years.
The meeting heard from Mr Fox who said “it is unlikely that Shetland can afford the huge sums needed for this project, if planning consent is granted it would be highly likely the only option for the Shetland Charitable Trust would be to sell off all or part of their share, significantly reducing or removing the community element".
Sustainable Shetland believes that If Shetland was to invest in the project, £360m from Charitable Trust funds of just £150m; the high-risk project endangers all the community funds on a single project. They also say that community money going into Viking Energy would result in less to spend annually on care homes, leisure, education, culture, recreation and other Charitable Trust funded projects. Regardless of any future loss or gain, if Viking Energy proceeded with community money, Shetland would be facing 5 very grim years as money and resources were diverted into Viking Energy activities.
In closing the meeting was reminded that it was vital for everyone opposed to the Viking Energy project to make a formal planning objection by 28 July, either by letter, email or on-line at www.sustainableshetland.org.
Notes for editors:
Sustainable Shetland is a community campaign supporting sustainability and opposing the Viking Energy wind farm project. Founded in February 2008, Sustainable Shetland currently has 592 paid up members. We believe that the damage caused by building the wind farm on the proposed site will actually contribute to global warming. We support renewable energy projects which are fit for scale and fit for purpose. We believe that the project is acting against the wishes of the Shetland community, and puts community money at unacceptable risk.
Viking Energy Wind Farm is a joint project between Viking Energy
Ltd and SSE Viking Limited to build a c. £800m, 550 MW, 50 turbine
wind farm in Central mainland Shetland. If built it would be the largest
wind farm in Europe.
Shetland Charitable Trust own 90% of shares in Viking Energy Ltd. The remaining 10% are owned by 4 private individuals, one of whom is a Viking Energy Ltd project officer employed by Shetland Islands Council / Shetland Charitable Trust.
Press release ends
Sustainable Shetland is a campaign group formed in March 2008 in response to a proposal for a large scale wind farm in Shetland. We believe these large industrial projects are damaging to our environment. We believe that the Viking Energy wind farm endangers Shetland Community Funds, project costs are underestimated and project income grossly over stated.
We believe that the Viking Energy proposals are everything we do not need in Shetland: they are financially risky and potentially damaging to the Shetland environment.
We want to see sustainable renewable energy projects in Shetland which are fit for scale and fit for purpose, and provide real community benefit.
We are not an "anti windfarm" campaign. However we are strongly opposed to the Viking wind farm proposal. Other projects will be considered on their own merits.