Supreme Court dismisses case against Shetland wind farm

9th February 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Energy ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources

Author

Luke Mabvudza

A wind farm on Shetland will go ahead after the Supreme Court dismissed challenge under the EU birds and habitats Directives.

The proposed Viking Energy wind farm would consist of 103 turbines and was opposed by government advisers Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the RSPB and local campaign group Sustainable Shetland. The groups fear the wind farm will damage the island’s population of whimbrels, a protected migratory bird.

Around 95% of the UK’s population of the whimbrel use the island to breed. A 2009 survey revealed a 39% decline in the bird’s population over the previous 20 years.

According to the judgment, developers Viking Energy submitted extra information in its environmental statement on bird impact. It included an estimate of the number of whimbrels that would potentially be displaced or killed by the wind farm. It said that around 1.8 pairs of the bird would be displaced and around 2.1 birds would be killed after colliding with turbines.

The developer proposed measures to mitigate the potential damage to the whimbrel population, including predator control and habitat restoration. But SNH maintained that the wind farm would have a “significant adverse impact” on the birds.

Scottish ministers, however, gave the wind farm the go-ahead in 2012, claiming that the peatland restoration proposed by the developers would benefit a large range of species and that the number of whimbrels killed by the turbines was very small compared with deaths by other causes.

That decision was overturned in 2013 by judge Lady Clark of Calton, who claimed that the scheme breached the EU birds directive by threatening the whimbrel. Appeal judges in Edinburgh subsequently overruled Clark’s decision.

Sustainable Shetland went to the Supreme Court, claiming that ministers had an obligation not only to maintain the current level of whimbrel, but to increase its population. They argued that this meant it had failed in its obligations under the both birds and the habitats Directives.

However, the judges said that, although decision letter from the Scottish government did not specifically mention the birds Directive, it was clear from its consideration of the advice from the SNH that it had taken the Directive into account.

The judgment states: “[Sustainable Shetland’s] difficulty is that its suggestions are unsupported speculation, and were not raised by anyone in the representations on this proposal – whether by the expert bodies or anyone else.”

The judges declined to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

James Mackenzie, vice-chair at Sustainable Shetland, said that the organisation was very disappointed at the outcome of its campaign, which he said had been “unprecedented in Shetland’s history”.

“Our opposition to the wind farm – and its dire implications for the Shetland community and environment – remains undiminished,” he said. Mackenzie added that Sustainable Shetland may consider further legal action. A spokesperson for SNH also said that it was considering the ruling. “We remain committed to working with the developer in achieving the aims of their habitat management proposals,” he added.

Alan Bryce, chair of Viking Energy, commented: “We can now concentrate on developing what would be one of the world’s most productive wind farms, to generate renewable energy and significant income for the Shetland community.”

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

IEMA supports call for more ambitious Future Homes Standard

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their bills, according to polling commissioned by Positive Money.

13th February 2024

Read more

The reality of delivering net zero is that we need solutions tailored to specific areas. Peter Gudde explores models that local authorities could adopt

15th January 2024

Read more

Heat pump installations in UK homes increased by nearly a fifth last year, with over 200,000 now having been installed across the country.

11th January 2024

Read more

Last year was the warmest ever recorded, surpassing the previous annual high set in 2016 by a large margin, scientists have confirmed today.

9th January 2024

Read more

This year’s COP28 climate summit concluded with an “historic” agreement between countries to “transition away from fossil fuels”, although the final Global Stocktake text has been described as containing “a litany of loopholes”.

14th December 2023

Read more

The huge quantities of data we generate online every day is having an increasingly negative impact on the environment. Chris Seekings examines what is being done to tackle the problem

30th November 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close