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.”


Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

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

Find an expert