WHERE is the consistency in the Scottish Government's policy about renewables and wild land?
The proposal to build a 17-turbine wind farm at Dunbeath in Caithness by West Coast Energy has been overturned by the Scottish Government. Energy Secretary Fergus Ewing repeated his support for renewable energy "but not at any cost" (Minister throws out plan for giant wind farm in Highlands", The Herald, June 8). In isolation, this will be welcomed by the residents in the area, John Muir Trust, and campaigners across Scotland who continue to fight to stop the proliferation of wind farms on wild land.
The Alliance Party of Scotland (APS), which demands an independent commission to inquire into all forms of energy generation, backs the decision to refuse Dunbeath, and hopes it sets a precedent for all future proposals by developers who ignore the importance of our wild and natural heritage. However, there is concern about the inconsistent way final decisions are made and lack of any rationale other than political posturing.
Loading article content
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) objected to Dunbeath, the Highland Council planning committee raised no objection to the proposal, but the Government refused it.
Dunbeath is only one of a growing number of applications to establish wind farms on land defined as core wild land by SNH. We await decisions on many proposals in which the planning officers' recommendations are not supported by the planning committees, the reporters override local council and/or statutory agency and NGO recommendations, and the Government overrides recommendations by local councils statutory agencies and NGOs. It appears there is no indicative strategy within planning policy to guide developers towards areas deemed appropriate for development. And there certainly appears to be no consistency in the understanding of planning policy by those making the decisions.
This is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds a year, as we pay specialist agencies only for their advice to be ignored. One wind farm appeal cost Highland Council £67,440.71. This does not include the time Highland Council staff spent at the inquiry. The public, the taxpayer, and developers of renewable projects need clear and rigorous policy guidelines to ensure a fair, logical, and cost-effective planning process.
Chairwoman, Alliance Party of Scotland,
White House, Ardblair.