The planning director of Highland Council, which is seen by many as preoccupied with onshore windfarms in its green energy strategy, has directed the same criticism at the Scottish Executive.
After digesting the detail of the executive’s long-awaited guidance to local authorities on the issue, John Rennilson points out that ministers have ignored the thorny issue of upgraded power lines to accommodate the expected boost in electricity output.
The document – SPP6: Renewable Energy – reaffirms strong support for green energy, sets a production target of 6,000 megawatts by 2020 and recommends that 20MW developments – anything more than 10 turbines – should be sited at least 1,500 metres from the surrounding population.
In a proposed change to planning law, the number of jobs and operation of a windfarm can be the subject of a planning condition. It also states that community-benefit funds should not form any part of the planning process.
Mr Rennilson described the document as limited in that it covered onshore renewables but did not mention how that fitted in with other technologies such as so-called “clean coal”, gas and nuclear power.
“There is a need for a Scottish energy strategy which would take all of this into account, as well as offshore generation, energy conservation, micro-renewables and the associated grid infrastructure,” he said.
“Local authorities are not given any targets to guide them on the number of onshore windfarms they should have and there is no mention of the visual impact future offshore developments would have and what associated onshore facilities they would need.
“There is no guidance, either, on the impact windfarms will have on wild land or on national scenic areas where they are visible from within the area, or the cumulative impact of several separate windfarms in an area.”
An executive spokesman said: “We want a genuine renewables mix. We do not favour one form over any other.
“This policy sets out a framework for the future, identifying areas where development is most likely to be supported and those areas which should be avoided.
“We are currently undertaking root-and-branch modernisation of our planning system to speed up the decision-making process.
“The key to this will be local development plans with the active engagement of communities by local authorities and developers before applications are considered.”
New Inverness councillor David Henderson, an outspoken critic of land-based turbines, said: “I could see three windfarms from the Cairngorm plateau the other day. I also feel that community benefit should form no part of this because it is divisive.”
Mr Rennilson appealed for more guidance on the extension and upgrading of the national power grid, including laying transmission lines underground.
“Nothing is mentioned in the paper except what already has Ofgem approval, the proposed upgrade of the Beauly to Denny line,” he said.
Highland Council chiefs are to liaise with their island counterparts and enterprise officials before lobbying ministers.
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