Last week, the Woods under Threat Team objected to the proposed Viking Windfarm in Shetland.
This massive 150 turbine proposal is situated on Mainland Shetland and would be connected to Scotland via a sub-sea cable. Other objectors to the scheme include Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, the RSPB, the John Muir Trust and Sustainable Shetland.
Shetland is not well known for its woodland resource. Our concern about this application is that the development proposed threatens both relict native woodland and also the small amount of plantation woodland which exists on Mainland Shetland. In particular, several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which contain woodland features are found both within the application boundary and close to it. These woodlands are not on the Ancient Woodland Inventory or on any historical maps as they consist of tiny areas of scrub, often seriously overgrazed and hanging on in gullies and streams – SNH class it as relict scrub in the SSSI statements – these may be a remnant of the woodlands which once existed in Shetland and disappeared 2-3,000 years ago for unknown, climatic or anthropogenic reasons. As a habitat this seems incredibly rare, with four mentioned examples. A Woodland Habitat Action Plan is in place , which is trying to propagate from these few trees and protect from further losses.
The development of the windfarm may pose a threat to these high conservation woodlands due to quarrying, changes in sedimentation and hydrology and the risk of peat slides, and they do not appear to have been fully assessed within the Environmental Statement (ES).
The threat to the plantation woodland at Kergord SSSI; this is planted with mainly non-native tree species and has ecological interest, with some ancient woodland indicator species and lots of fungi, it’s also one fo the few amenity woodlands on Shetland. This SSSI is barely mentioned in the Windfarm ES, but the valley it sits in will be the route off-island for the undersea cable. The cable itself will be dealt with in another application, and will probably pop up on mainland Scotland somewhere near Portgordon (near Spey Bay in Moray) and cross land to Blackhillock substation. Several woods, some ancient are found within the proposed route. Without the windfarm this cable is not needed.
We believe that for a scheme of this scale, a Local Public Inquiry must be held to examine the issues in more detail. Also, as the associated substations and sub-sea cable are necessary to enable this development, they and their environmental impact must also be considered in the same process. It is imperative that the remaining fragments of woodland that exist on Shetland are protected from disturbance and any possible damage.
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