The three key ingredients for the development of onshore wind are all strongly present in Aberdeenshire.
A good wind resource, together with ready connections to the grid and land managers with access to capital or a willingness to work with wind turbine developers are all essential.
We now have a wind rush – an unprecedented number of applications for wind turbines, some 800 over the past 14 months, with applications still coming forward at around 40 per month, more than the rest of Scotland put together.
This is having an increasingly serious impact on communities across Aberdeenshire, many of whom are feeling overwhelmed, both by the sheer number of proposals and by their seemingly haphazard, unpredictable pattern.
Aberdeenshire Council is responding to these unique challenges, but the planning system was not designed to deal with such numbers of applications of a single type.
Work is under way to review our planning guidance.
We are engaging with Scottish Natural Heritage and others to ensure that a strategic approach is taken.
This will take time – but time is something we do not have. Planning applications should be determined within two months – after which applicants can appeal to Scottish ministers on the grounds of non-determination.
The council cannot therefore call a halt unilaterally. But we urgently need time and space to take stock.
We need to be able to plan, strategically and comprehensively, if Aberdeenshire’s communities and landscapes are not to be overwhelmed.
Some parts are probably full already.
I believe the Scottish Government must act now.
All undetermined applications should be put on hold by relieving the council of the two-month obligation – and also by removing the right to appeal on non-determination.
The council should also be indemnified against any claims for the period of this moratorium. Applications could still be lodged, as this would assist the creation of an accurate picture but none would be determined for perhaps six months, not until we are certain about what the landscape can shoulder without detriment.
This may well conflict with Scottish Government targets for 100% of Scotland’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020 – but such policy conflict must take second place to the immediate needs of Aberdeenshire communities and residents.
Our communities and planners are under an enormous pressure which shows no sign of lifting.
It is my view that the Scottish ministers must act on this and act quickly, putting the interests of Aberdeenshire’s people and environment first.
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