Communities are paying the price for public bodies’ bad handling of windfarm policies, according to local MSPs.
The Green Party has pointed the finger of blame at Perth and Kinross Council, while Tory MSP Murdo Fraser and the SNP’s Roseanna Cunningham claim government groups such as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) have a duty to stand up and fight alongside the communities battling windfarm proposals in their backyard.
And the Scottish Executive came under fire for the lack of a national windfarm policy.
During a debate in Holyrood last Wednesday, Roseanna Cunningham claimed: “Without coherent and cohesive national guidelines on the development of windfarms, developers seem to have been putting in applications for almost every hilltop in certain areas. That has left those communities with the sense that they are the Yukon of the wind-based goldrush.”
The Scottish Executive’s lack of policy, she added, had succeeded in making clean, green wind energy extremely unpopular in large swathes of Scotland.
Liberal Democrat MSP Andrew Arbuckle suggested that windfarm developers should be compelled to contribute to local communities.
He explained no trade-off benefits had been offered to communities and as a consequence, many local residents see windfarm proposals as a desecration of their neighbourhood for no local gain.
The financial impact on local communities fighting windfarm plans was also highlighted.
Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, called for public agencies to put their money where their mouths are and provide evidence at public inquiries to represent their views.
“Instead, the burden of paying for representation at the public inquiries falls on community-based groups that object to the planning application. This is unfair and undemocratic,” he said.
“The Minister has already admitted to me that the Scottish Executive is satisfied that SNH and SEPA have the resources to provide evidence, therefore these agencies are simply not making those representations.”
Ms Cunningham added: “You can bet your life that the developers will have expert witnesses present, with all the resources that they need.
“SNH and SEPA are the people’s “˜expert witnesses’ and we need them to be present and correct, not posted missing in action.”
And Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell warned Perth and Kinross Council’s failure to stick to the local strategy could lead to haphazard development.
He explained: “In the future, the council must stick to its own plan ““ otherwise they will be leaving the Executive no measured local view as to which are the good and bad applications.
“It is unfortunate that the Executive approved the Greenknowes project ahead of the public inquiry.
“I would have like to have seen this application compete with all the others in the Ochils on their own merits.”
By Jenny Wood
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