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Taxpayers hit with £1m bill for turbines

The cost of resisting the spread of wind turbines across Perth and Kinross has now reached a staggering £1 million.

The council has repeatedly attempted to block the proliferation of windfarm developments, which it believes threatens the landscape and its vital tourism industry.

But time and again its democratically taken decisions have been overturned on appeal, such has been the Scottish Government’s drive to support “green energy” projects.

The burden of fighting those appeals has ultimately been shouldered by the taxpayer, with the situation described as “scandalous” by senior Tory councillors.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance described the Scottish Government’s policy as “disastrous” and called for Hollyrood to give more thought to local democracy.

In 2010, figures obtained by The Courier under freedom of information legislation revealed that the council and taxpayer had been hit with a massive £836,097 bill for daring to oppose the unwanted schemes.

Since then costs have continued to be awarded against the council following successful appeals to the Government.

New figures show that over the past eight years the council has been charged £1 million to defend windfarm planning appeals.

There is unlikely to be any respite for the council or taxpayer as the authority has received 122 wind turbine applications – plans for single turbines and larger scale developments, since January 2011.

Conservative councillor Ann Cowan has been a long-term opponent of the spread of turbines and sought up to date figures on the cost to the council and the region’s residents.

The member for Strathearn said: “It is completely unfair that windfarm developers, if they are successful in an appeal against the council, will have their costs met by the council.

“However, if the council wins the appeal, it has been unable to recover their costs from the developer.”

The cumulative cost of fighting windfarm plans for Mellock Hill, Little Law and Snowgoat Glen – all thrown out – and the ultimately successful 12-turbine Lochelbank farm came to £271,476.

The ultimately unsuccessful bid to oppose the 16-turbine Drumderg development cost the council £235,061.

Other defeats have also hit the region’s pockets hard, with opposition to the Griffin and Calliacher plans costing £177,000.

But the council has pledged that it will continue to take a view on individual windfarms based on their planning merits and would not be swayed by the costs that could be incurred.

Robert Oxley, of Taxpayer Scotland, said it was time for a change to the nation’s policy on windfarms.

He said: “With household budgets already tight, the last thing families need is higher bills thanks to costly windfarms they didn’t want in the first place.

“Perth and Kinross Council shouldn’t be pushed into accepting windfarms through repeated costly appeals.

“It’s time the Scottish Government reconsidered its disastrous policy in this area.”

Councillor Mac Roberts, who leads the Conservative group on the council, added: “The maximum fees for a windfarm application currently stand at £15,950.

“This is obviously well below the true cost and hopefully the Scottish Government will take on board Perth and Kinross Council’s support for the recently proposed increase in fees of up to £100,000.

“This would go some way to covering these costs and would be of some relief to the council taxpayers of Perth and Kinross.”