The Scottish Government has been accused of ordering local authorities to identify more land for wind farm developments so that it can meet its renewable energy targets.
Tory energy spokeswoman May Scanlon said a letter telling councils to create “spatial frameworks” for onshore wind farms in development plans was “an open invitation to wind farm companies across the world to submit their applications in Scotland”.
In a move she said would worry communities already angered by the spread of the giant turbines, Ms Scanlon said it would provide companies with a list of sites to target for preferred development.
The Government’s aim is to meet all of Scotland’s electricity needs through renewables by 2020 and the letter, co-signed by Local Government Minister Derek McKay and Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, says they want to suggest “some constructive means” to help deal with planning issues.
It says: “The clear identification of areas of search for wind farms is in everyone’s interest – planning authorities, developers and the wider public.
“For that reason, the Scottish Government will in future require spatial frameworks to form part of the Development Plan as required by Scottish Planning Policy rather than in interim supplementary guidance.”
Their letter follows a warning to Holyrood’s Energy Committee earlier this month from one of Europe’s leading energy companies, Vattenfall, that Scotland’s planning system risked the development of its renewables potential.
It warned that the system was inadequately resourced, resulting in a backlog of cases, long lead times to important project meetings and inconsistency.
The company also claimed there were “too many examples of decision-makers across Scotland being swayed by a tiny vocal minority”.
The letter from Mr Ewing and Mr MacKay said that from their experience of assisting planning chiefs with the collation of data for the Energy’s Committee’s inquiry, it was clear information was not consistently or readily available to some planning authorities about the number, status and nature of wind turbine applications and developments in their area.
“We will be working with planning authorities to understand how best to make this information available in the public interest, while minimising burdens on staff or data-management resources,” it added.
However, Ms Scanlon said two councils, Fife and Aberdeenshire, have already called a moratorium on wind farm applications because planning bosses were unable to cope with the volume of them.
She added: “Council planning departments are already under severe pressure to deal with these applications, and even the councils who do have preferred areas of development are receiving speculative applications en masse for places they have stated are not suitable.”
l A further £5 million has been set aside to help householders generate their own clean green energy.
The fund, announced by Mr Ewing, will be used to give loans of up to £10,000 for renewable heat technology projects such as biomass boilers and heat pumps, from August this year.
The loans are part of a wider strategy that aims to encourage people to install microgeneration technologies in their own homes, businesses and schools.
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