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SNP tells Scottish councils: You cannot delay wind farms

SNP ministers have refused permission for Scottish councils to call a temporary halt to the construction of more wind farms despite complaints they are being inundated by “opportunistic” applications.

Derek Mackay, the Local Government Minister, wrote to Fife and Moray councils rejecting their requests for a moratorium because it would cause “undue delay” to developments.

But he faced accusations of riding roughshod over the concerns of local communities in the SNP’s rush to generate the equivalent all of Scotland’s electricity from green sources by the end of the decade.

Moray Council said the request for a moratorium had received “significant support” from local people and described the response as a “bitter blow”.

The written requests from the two local authorities are Scotland-wide test cases, with planning departments across the country struggling to cope with the volume of applications from green energy firms.

The SNP target for 2020 requires large and speedy expansion in the number of onshore turbines and local authorities received 1,800 applications last year alone.

Fife Council complained to the minister that green energy companies are routinely ignoring official guidelines and asking for permission to build turbines in areas that are not appropriate.

The country’s most senior planning officials have also warned that Scotland risks being turned into a “wind farm landscape” as ever more sensitive sites are required to meet the targets.

Mr Mackay’s rejection of a moratorium came two months after he wrote to all councils instructing them to set up areas for building more turbines.

Mary Scanlon, Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “This dictatorial approach by the SNP is unacceptable in a democracy.

“When it comes to issues of renewable energy the SNP will do anything to force through its policies, completely ignoring the very legitimate concerns of local people.”

Moray Council’s planning and regulatory services committee decided to request a moratorium during its meeting on July 3 while it consulted residents on new planning guidance for wind farms.

Councillor Allan Wright, the local authority’s leader, said he was “disappointed” by the SNP’s decision to reject a “reasonable” request.

Councillor Douglas Ross, the committee’s chair, added: “This response will be a bitter blow to many people across Moray who felt it was a sensible and proportionate move.”

Alex Rowley, the leader of Fife Council, complained in June that many green energy companies are submitting “opportunistic” applications in areas that are not suitable.

Although Fife and Moray were the first to make written requests, Aberdeenshire has also called for a six-month halt after receiving 800 applications in only 14 months.

But a Scottish Government spokesman said ministers are considering more ways of helping councils deal with green energy planning applications.

“We do not believe that a moratorium on wind turbine applications is appropriate – it would simply cause undue delay and uncertainty for everyone involved in applications,” he added.