August 19, 2010

Call for review of planning procedure; ‘Tinkering’ accusation over windfarm applications

By Tim Pauling, The Press and journal, 19 August 2010

The Scottish Government has been accused of “tinkering” with the way planning applications for windfarms are decided.

Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Murdo Fraser called for a review of the planning process for windfarms yesterday because of the way several developments in Perthshire were, or are, being handled.

Mr Fraser asked the Scottish Government what changes had been introduced to speed up the decision-making process for onshore windfarm applications since the SNP came to power in May 2007.

Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson answered that the “pre-application process for developers” had been revised.

This “fresh approach” re-emphasised the need to concentrate on “early engagement” and efforts to help developers identify key environmental issues, he said.

Mr Fraser said: “It is extremely disappointing that the SNP government has done so little in the last three years since they came to power to improve the decision-making process for onshore windfarm applications.

“After the decisions to allow Drumderg, Griffin and Calliacher windfarms to go ahead, it is clear that Scotland’s planning system for windfarm applications and the decision-making process is in a complete mess.

“It is clear that real changes need to be made to the decision-making process for windfarm developments, instead of just tinkering at the edges, like the SNP have been doing.”

Mr Fraser asked his question after a government spokesman told the Press and Journal in June, regarding the 27-turbine Calliacher windfarm on 1,500 acres south of Aberfeldy: “We are working to deliver an increasingly effective and efficient planning system and have introduced simplified policies and procedures to speed up the decision-making process.”

In his parliamentary answer, Mr Stevenson referred to a government circular published in July 2009 covering procedures to improve the efficiency and speed by which applications are determined.

He said: “Most of the changes to the planning system came into force on August 3, 2009 and, for the most part, apply only to planning applications or appeals made on or after that date.”

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