Anti-wind farm campaigners have welcomed proposals to raise fees for planning applications.
Among those who praised the Scottish Government ideas, contained within a consultation paper, was Councillor Ann Cowan.
“At long last the Scottish Government has realised the enormous costs to councils of processing applications for large wind farms,” she said following last week’s meeting of Perth and Kinross Council’s enterprise and infrastructure committee of Perth and Kinross Council.
Currently, the local authority has a limit of £15,950 for any planning application.
“This is unrealistic for many types of large developments, but especially for wind farms. Councils cannot charge more even if it is for a large number of wind turbines, enough to bring the developers and landowners profits of several million pounds over the next few years.
“On these occasions it may well cost the planning authority several times the amount of the fee.”
Councillor Cowan added that the costs of deciding a wind farm application can be compounded if a developer appeals to the Scottish Government, prompting a costly public inquiry.
“If they then win their case at a subsequent inquiry, very often the council ends up footing the bill for that too.”
The Strathearn representative, who has previously voiced her views on wind farms in the area, continued: “This is costing tax-payers a lot of money. Really these developers have been living in fairyland for several years.
“When these proposals come into being there will be a more realistic figure placed on application costs – the top figure being proposed is £100,000. In England fees can be up to £250,000, so we are still going to be a cheaper alternative.
“It is only fair that people should pay what it costs, specially if they are in line to make massive profits.”
Chair of the Sma’ Glen Protection Group 2, Maureen Beaumont, shared Councillor Cowan’s views.
She said: “We would all welcome an increase in fees as at the moment they are insufficient to cover the processing of the application.
“It this would help reduce the number of speculative applications it would be a good thing, as the planning department is overwhelmed.
“They have to respond to every single comment made, which is costly and the applications are hugely time and money consuming.”
A PUBLIC meeting will be held in Methven on Monday to discuss plans for four wind turbines near Tibbermore.
The Gask And Strathearn Protection Society (GASPS) has arranged the meeting, which will start at 7.30pm in the Methven Community Hall, to gauge the feeling of locals in the area about the proposals.
This week, the group delivered 1500 leaflets to households in the area, inviting them to the meeting.
Member James England told the Herald: “We currently have around 15 to 20 members, with six people sitting on the steering group, but we hope that as more people hear about us, they will join.
“Our focus is to stop the creep of windmills into lowland Scotland – this proposal in particular has turbines 120m high on land maybe 100ft about sea level.
“It is not about just this site but to create critical mass.
“All are welcome to attend the meeting – whether for or against the proposals – and we are hoping for a good turnout.
“We have found that a lot of people don’t know where the site is and the impact it will have, so we hope to provide them with more information.”
Among those due to speak are GASPS chairman Brian Simpson and planning expert Jim Lochhead.
Anyone who would like more information, or is unable to attend but would like to share their views with GASPS can email email@example.com or visit their website, www.gasps.info.