The Scottish Government was accused last night of handing windfarm developers an open invitation to build in the north and north-east.
In a letter to councils, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing and Local Government Minister Derek Mackay have urged local authorities to identify areas where windfarms could be sited.
And the Conservative Party fears this will fuel the rise in planning bids across the region. But Aberdeenshire’s planning convener thinks the move could stem the flow of inappropriate applications.
The SNP ministers want council leaders to create “spatial frameworks” for wind turbines which would give companies a list of sites across the country for preferred development.
Tory energy spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said many communities will fear the north and northeast will be inundated with planning bids.
The move comes amid concerns that councils like Aberdeenshire are being overwhelmed by windfarm applications. SNP ministers have pledged to provide about £300,000 to help planning departments cope with the workload.
Ms Scanlon, a Highlands and islands MSP, said: “This is sending out an open invitation to windfarm companies across the world to submit their applications in Scotland and that is something that will worry many local communities.
“Council planning departments are already under severe pressure to deal with these applications and even the councils which do have preferred areas of development are receiving speculative applications en mass for places they have stated are not suitable. The SNP is fuelling this rise, and ordering councils across Scotland to get on-message with them will do nothing to help that situation.”
Aberdeenshire councillor Peter Argyle, chairman of the authority’s infrastructure services committee, said it was already trying to identify suitable areas for developments to stop speculative applications.
“We have a lot of applications – 500 in the last year – and my concern is to make sure we have the policies in place to cope with an unprecedented situation.”
Nick Orpwood, of Aberdeenshire protest group Concerned About Wind Turbines, said: “If the government is suggesting councils should review suitable areas for windfarms, that is fine – but the question is what are the parameters because anyone can say an area is suitable.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman rejected the Tory claims and said it was not unreasonable to expect councils to have a plan which gives direction on the appropriate siting of windfarms. “Many planning authorities have already prepared spatial frameworks which help to direct windfarm developments to the areas best able to accommodate them, reducing the potential for adverse impacts,” she said.
“We want to see the right developments in the right places. “Each case is assessed on its merits and unsuitable applications are rejected.”