Fury against SNP ministers making decisions on wind farm applications
CAMPAIGNS raised fears of a “democratic deficit” after new statistics revealed that on dozens of occasions SNP ministers have determined controversial demands for wind farms after local councils failed to do so in the authorized deadlines.
Information released by the Scottish Government has shown a plethora of wind farm applications which have been ‘deemed denials’.
Deemed refusals are requests submitted by developers to a local council, but the authority is running out of time to decide whether or not to approve or deny the authorization within the six-month period.
As the councils have not ruled on the contentious wind farm applications, the proposals are automatically turned down – meaning a developer can then go directly to the Scottish Government on appeal to decide and circumvent local council procedures.
Statistics show that 45 times in the past decade, local planning processes have been bypassed – with 14 applications having obtained Scottish government permission.
The process was bypassed for plans for a wind farm at Mochrum Fell in Dumfries and Galloway, leading to hundreds of residents protesting the proposals.
Campaigners have described the situation as a ‘democratic deficit’ – warning that the power to approve highly controversial wind farms is approved by an SNP minister after a recommendation from a Scottish government journalist.
Iain Milligan, spokesperson for Save Our Hills, said: “There is a clear democratic deficit when it comes to dozens of wind farm applications across Scotland.
“When these proposals are tabled, the public expects them to be scrutinized. This means a solid consultation, a rigorous debate in the chambers of the local council, then a decision taken by the directly elected officials to rule on such matters. ”
He added: “But now we can see that a lot of that has been bypassed because the local authorities are just too stretched to handle all these huge demands.
“These statistics show that very often the end result is Scottish government approval for a very controversial project. It is extremely unfair for the rural communities who must then suffer the consequences.
THE Scottish Tories have called on SNP ministers to give more funds to local councils to help officials better determine demands within the six-month deadline to avoid plans being determined by a central team.
Scottish Conservative spokesperson for net zero, energy and transport Liam Kerr said: ‘It is alarming to see underfunded and overburdened councils not being able to meet these deadlines and when they do, they are constantly overthrown by the SNP government. .
“The SNP continues to adopt the attitude it knows better than local communities when it comes to making vital planning decisions.
He added: “They just don’t want to listen to local authorities and residents, but rather want to take power from them.
“The Scottish Tories want a law which ensures that local planning decisions can never be overturned to respect the wishes of the local people.”
Colsa, the umbrella organization of Scottish Councils, stressed that local councils are better equipped to determine planning requests, but warned that funding is needed to keep up with a growing number of planning requests, especially with a backlog caused by the pandemic.
A spokesperson for Cosla said: “Cosla is a strong supporter of renewable energy and local decision-making, but we cannot comment on individual planning decisions.
“In general, there can be many reasons why a planning request is not approved and we believe that local authorities remain in the best position to make decisions on wind farms and other related developments.
“To support local authorities in this area, we are actively working with the Scottish Government to ensure they have better resources to deal with planning requests of all kinds. This is made more urgent by the need to manage increased demand on the planning system as we recover from the pandemic. ”
Earlier this year, The Herald revealed on Sunday that only a fifth of the Scottish government’s onshore wind farm projects considered came from Scottish developers whose ministers were accused of selling renewable assets overseas.
In April, only eight of 39 proposals submitted to the government, which are either too important to be determined by boards or open to appeal, came from Scottish companies.
Statistics showed that 19 of the bids were submitted by foreign companies and another 10 by English-owned companies
Scotland currently has an onshore wind capacity of around 8.5 GW. Plans are in place to rapidly expand offshore wind capacity to 11 GW, as part of a plan to transform the country into a carbon neutral nation.
But near-term capacity increases for renewables will come from onshore wind – with 4.45 GW of capacity already approved and an additional 4 GW in planning.
The EXPERTS stressed that renewable energy through offshore and onshore wind energy will bring economic and environmental benefits for Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s statutory adviser, the Climate Change Committee, said the government should focus on ensuring a “favorable planning regime for low-cost onshore wind” and keeping power generation at from renewable sources at high levels if targets are to be met.
The Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan indicates a commitment by Scottish Power to ‘invest over £ 10 billion in North Sea renewables over the next decade’.
The document also highlights a “new target for renewable and all-energy consumption of 50% by 2030, covering electricity, heating and transport”, adding that “there will also be a substantial increase renewable energy production, in particular through new offshore and onshore wind turbines. capacity “.
But BiFab’s wind turbine contract fiasco has sparked anger that Scottish jobs and supply chains promised as part of the country’s increased wind capacity have not materialized.
There have been 13,547 decisions on local developments in the last six months of 2020/21, 833 more than the same period the year before.
The average decision time for 12,279 of them that were not subject to treatment agreements was 10 weeks, slightly less than a week less than the corresponding time limit of 9.2 weeks for the six last months of 2019/20.
A GOVERNMENT document warns that “some requests will have longer decision times due to delays resulting from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Despite the pandemic putting unprecedented pressure on our budget, the 2021/22 Local Governments Financial Settlement of £ 11.7bn includes an additional £ 375.6m , or 3.5%, for daily expenses.
In addition, the value of the Scottish Government’s Global Coronavirus (Covid-19) Support Program for Counseling stands at over £ 1.5 billion.
“It is the responsibility of each council to manage its own budget and to allocate the financial resources at its disposal on the basis of local needs and priorities.
“The right to appeal against the failure of the local planning authority to determine certain planning requests is an important part of the planning system.
“As with decisions made by local planning authorities, independent journalists, who make most of the decisions about planning appeals, are required to do so on the merits of the planning case, taking into account full account of all the evidence available to them, including representations from members. of the local community.