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Plans taking shape to maximise outdoor access through wind farm site

November 22nd 2019

Public use of wind farm tracks and paths for outdoor recreation was discussed with interested groups and individuals at a drop-in session in Lerwick this week.

Several dozen people attended the event at Mareel to talk about making best use of more than 70 kilometres of routes throughout the site for activities such as mountain biking, angling, jogging, guided tours, horse-riding or simply exploring places currently difficult to access.

A Viking Energy spokesman said: “We picked up a few more good suggestions to act upon and we were encouraged by the enthusiasm people have for the new opportunities to get out and about on the site once easier access becomes possible.”

Viking Energy requires Shetland Island Council’s approval of its outdoor access plan as a condition of the Scottish Government’s planning consent for the wind farm. The draft plan is now close to completion following consultation which has included meetings with local outdoor recreation groups, Ability Shetland, the Shetland Outdoor Access Forum and this week’s drop-in session.

Once approved, the plan will be published, showing all the existing paths and access routes through the site and explaining how these will be integrated with additional recreation paths and the network of wind farm access tracks.

The wind farm site will have six entry points from public roads, each of which will be fitted with pass gates for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

Vehicle access will generally be restricted to authorised users, such as the local crofters.

Viking Energy is keen to enable access for people with mobility difficulties and received useful advice from visitors to Mareel to help promote that.

The Viking Energy spokesman said: “We want to avoid installing gates which cause problems for people to open or to pass through. The prospect of visitors being able to get out on site using all-terrain wheelchairs and adapted bicycles is something we really want to make happen.”

One of the questions asked by several visitors was whether the wind farm site would be off limits to the public during the four-year construction phase. The spokesman said: “Viking intends keeping existing access routes open when safe to do so but temporary restrictions and signposted diversions will have to be put in place in areas under construction to help keep the public and site workers safe.

“Crofters will continue to be able to conduct their activities as normal during construction work. A set of site rules will be put in place and information will be made available to advise people what to do if site traffic is encountered during their visit.”

Once in place, the outdoor access plan will be reviewed every six months during construction and then annually throughout the operational life of the wind farm.

The project team is keen to hear more ideas for consideration and can be contacted by email through [email protected]