A motion calling on East Lothian Council to declare all bids for single wind turbines in the county “premature” was thrown out by elected members after they heard that the move would be “illegal”.
Councillor Norman Hampshire (Lab) put a motion before a meeting of the full council in Haddington last Tuesday due to “real public concern within East Lothian about the current planning controls for dealing with the development of wind turbines on the lower Lammermuirs”.
The motion, seconded by Councillor Jim Gillies (Lab), called for the council to “regard all individual wind turbine planning applications on the lower Lammermuirs as premature until the council reviews the Local Plan policies and produces a masterplan that identifies areas of the lower Lammermuirs where this type of development can be successfully integrated into the landscape”.
Mr Hampshire added: “I support wind energy and have supported applications in the past and will support applications in the future. I think there’s a need for it.”
However, Keith MacConnachie, head of law and licensing, told the meeting that legislation required the council to process and determine planning applications within a certain period of time.
“For the council to make a decision to do nothing would be ultra vires [beyond the powers],” he explained.
The meeting also heard from Peter Collins, the council’s director of environment, who stated that the local authority would also be unable to make any alterations to the Local Plan.
Councillor Sheena Richardson (Lib Dem), East Lothian Provost, concluded: “We would be acting unlawfully and we haven’t any grounds for judging this premature.”
It was heard that the local authority had recently drawn up new planning guidelines for officials and members to assist them in making decisions on individual wind turbine applications.
Councillor Paul McLennan (SNP), council leader, said: “We now have detailed planning guidelines. This needs to be discussed fully by the administration and taken forward.
“We will be in a position to share this with the opposition and community groups.
“This is a detailed paper that we can bring to the council on December 7 for approval.
“But the motion that’s here before us today is obviously illegal.”
Mr Hampshire agreed to withdraw the motion.
There was also an assurance given by Councillor Barry Turner (Lib Dem), planning convenor, that each individual wind turbine application would be considered on its own merit and was not guaranteed approval.
He said: “It’s true that we all have been receiving representations from members of the community concerned about wind turbines.
“I get the impression that the people sending them are under the impression that these applications are going to just sail through and it’s a foregone conclusion that they are going to be approved.
“That’s simply not the case. All applications are considered on their own merits.”
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