A Strathearn politician has hit out an “appalling” situation where Perth and Kinross Council gets stung for costs of defending windfarm decisions.
Councillor Ann Cowan was recently given figures by the local authority that showed £1 million has been spent in the last eight years to fight cases at public inquiries.
While PKC has stumped up for developers’ costs of the appeal when they lose, the local authority does not get to recoup its costs when the decision comes down in its favour.
Cllr Cowan said: “It is appalling that, where the issue is decided in favour of the council’s democratically taken decision, the costs never seem to be awarded against the developers.
“What has happened is completely unfair. Windfarm developers, if they are successful in an appeal against the council, have had their costs met by the council.
“However, where the council wins the appeal the council has so far been unable to recover its costs from the developers.
“This is a win-win situation for the developers and completely unfair for the people of Perth and Kinross who have to fund the cost of these appeals.”
The Strathearn representative gave the Abercairny windfarm public inquiry as a local example. She said the local authority successfully argued its case but the £43,601 cost of that argument was paid for by local taxpayers.
Councillor Cowan added: “Bearing in mind that developers stand to make vast sums of money from their windfarms, this is indeed a scandalous situation. Further, we are all paying for these profits in our electricity bills, as people no doubt will have noticed.”
Councillor Mac Roberts, leader of the Conservative group on the council, supported Councillor Cowan.
He said: “The maximum application fee for a windfarm is currently £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 tax payers of Perth and Kinross.”
A PKC spokesperson explained the council’s position: “The normal expectation in these circumstances is that each side bears its own costs in the event of an appeal. However, there is the ability to make a claim for costs which is governed by Scottish Government legislation and guidance. Costs can be claimed where one party’s actions have resulted in unnecessary expense for the claimant.
“Perth and Kinross Council has refused a number of windfarm applications but in only a minority of these have costs been claimed and granted against the council. We have not yet had occasion to make a claim for costs because, whilst we have been committed to defending the decision, we have respected the applicant’s right to pursue the appeal and have not judged them to have been acting unreasonably in doing so.
“It is also important to note that the £1m of expenditure being referred to covers both the awarding of expenses and the costs of consultants and external legal assistance during the processing of windfarm applications and defending any subsequent appeals.”
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