Council chiefs want to spend £80,000 on consultants – to tell them how to deal with windfarms.
The ‘strategy update’ is seen as the best way to avoid hefty bills when official objections to major planning applications are lodged.
A public inquiry into a refusal to the 71-turbine Harestanes project in the Ae Forest was estimated to have cost the council £200,000.
And officials fear a similar inquiry in the objection to the 23-turbine Blackcraig windfarm in New Galloway will cost “significantly” more.
And a flood of new windfarm applications are currently being scoped out in the area with more than 40 either currently operating or in the construction and planning stages.
So councillors are being asked to employ the consultants to create new guidance on the windfarms issue in light of government policy changes.
In a report to members of the planning housing and environment committee, the council’s development manager, Andrew Maxwell, said: “The council’s windfarm strategy has been well regarded in the past as leading the field.
“However, whilst much of the policy framework remains relevant, there is now a need to update it to take account of these various changes.
“Doing so would allow the council to re-establish itself at the forefront of good practice in this sector.
“To achieve this, significant investment is required to bring in specialist consultants who can assist the council to update its policy framework such that it will be able to withstand challenges from the industry and elsewhere.
“Officers are investigating a partnership approach to funding a study which would result in consultants undertaking a major review.”
However, if approved by councillors, the authority’s planning budget will not have enough cash available to pay the consultants.
Mr Maxwell added: “This cannot be wholly funded from within the existing strategic/environmental planning budget and additional sources of funding from other organisations will be required to undertake the work.”
The authority is also still proposing to take on a £40,000 windfarm officer.
Councillors will be asked next week to sanction the funding for the employee.
13 August 2007
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