Sustainable Shetland’s James Mackenzie spent the weekend in Glasgow
speaking about his experiences of “undemocratic” planning.

The vice-chair of the anti-Viking Wind Farm campaign group was invited to
talk at the Planning Democracy’s People’s Perspective event at the city’s
Trades Hall on Saturday.

Mackenzie opened up about Sustainable Shetland’s opposition to the
103-turbine proposal, which has divided opinion over the last number of years.

He told more than 100 delegates from across Scotland about the “flaws” he
perceived in the way planning works.

“Planning Democracy approached me because they wanted somebody from
Sustainable Shetland to speak about our experience with the planning
system,” he said.

“It’s really about looking back over the whole planning process that the
Viking wind farm went through.

“While developers have the right to appeal against a planning decision if
it goes against them, the only right we had was go to judicial review,
which is very limiting and really expensive.”

Sustainable Shetland’s legal challenge against Scottish energy minister
Fergus Ewing’s 2012 decision to give Viking planning consent was ultimately
rejected at the Supreme Court in February.

Mackenzie feels that what “purported to be consultation” in the Viking wind
farm development so far has been no more than a “charade”.

He concluded: “The planning system in Scotland should absolutely be a lot
more transparent. Even right up to ministerial level, I think it’s just
been handled so badly and so undemocratically. It’s a real loss on democracy.”

The wind farm proposals require the final sanctioning of a subsea
interconnector cable linking Shetland to the Scottish mainland’s power grid.

The sold-out Planning Democracy conference sought to explore an
“alternative viewpoint” towards planning in Scotland.

Planning Democracy Scotland chair Clare Symonds commented: “There is a
growing recognition that the planning system in Scotland is heavily skewed
in favour of developers, who have the right to challenge a decision that
goes against them – in contrast to local people and environmentalists who
are denied that opportunity.

“This conference explored options for a more equitable planning system,
including the idea of equal rights of appeal to create a level playing
field that allows communities the same rights as developers.”

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