Record numbers of wind turbine applications are flooding into Scots councils at a rate of about eight a day. As a result, some local authorities are pleading for extra cash to bolster planning departments buckling under the strain of processing proposals from developers keen to cash in on public subsidies worth millions. Others are taking on temporary staff to cope with the burgeoning workload – at a time when schools and other vital public services are being hit with massive budget cuts. Ministers have been accused of ignoring calls for a moratorium on applications because of their 'obsession' with 'green' energy. Last night, Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s energy committee, called for an end to the 'madcap gold rush', which campaigners warn is also blighting some of Scotland’s most scenic landscapes. He said: 'Councils across Scotland are struggling to deal with a deluge of wind turbine planning applications as more and more people try to get on the subsidy gravy-train. "Some councils have even asked to be allowed to introduce a moratorium on new (wind farm) applications, only to be refused by the SNP.'
Anti-wind farm campaigners fear a new ‘forest’ of 1,000 turbines will soon blight the Borders landscape – thanks to the SNP’s ‘backroom bullying’ of the local council.
Campaigners claim official figures show wind farm developers have built or have planning permission for 403 turbines in the area.
An additional 418 are in the planning system and wind farm companies are looking at sites for a further 200.
The campaigners said ministers are pressuring Scottish Borders Council to allow more wind farms to be created, even where they risk reaching ‘saturation point’.
Scottish Government planning officials have asked the local authority to change a blueprint for the area’s future development after complaining of the ‘negative language’ about wind farms.
The council has also acceded to an SNP demand to drop proposals for ‘buffer zones’ around castles, abbeys, stately homes and gardens.
Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council, compiled the statistics for the numbers of turbines.
He said: ‘I’m sure the many Borders residents who have made known their concerns about oppressive wind farm development will be shocked to discover that whilst they were openly engaging in the planning process, the Scottish Government was busy behind the scenes, bullying the council into consenting to more turbines.
‘Our residents are clear – they think enough is enough.’
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire Tory MSP John Lamont said: ‘This correspondence from the Scottish Government shows how ruthless they are in pursuing their wind farm agenda.
‘It is reasonable to suggest our countryside is at saturation point when it comes to these turbines. It also makes sense to suggest that they should not be sited near historical sites.
‘It’s time they spent less time encouraging these developments and more time listening to residents.’
Ray Porter, an anti-turbine campaigner from Coldingham, Berwickshire, said: ‘This undue pressure has to stop. The council is being bullied.
‘The Scottish Government puts pressure on the council and undermines it at the appeal process. This week, five SNP members on the planning committee acted together without political impartiality to support one planning application – against the professional advice of the planning officer.
‘This is not about being for or against wind power. For the Scottish Government to claim Scottish Borders Council is not pro-wind is disingenuous.’
Brian Frater, head of planning and regulatory services at Scottish Borders Council, said: ‘The council recently produced a main issues report, one of the first steps in producing a new local development plan for the Borders.
‘One of the main questions raised in the report was what future direction wind energy policy should take.
‘Scottish Government officials responded, expressing concern about what they perceived as an unduly negative attitude.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was a ‘legal requirement’ for councils to consult it on emerging development plans and that it provides comments when this occurs.
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