By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor | The Telegraph | 13 November 2012 | www.telegraph.co.uk
SNP minsters have waved through more than four out of five of the largest and most controversial planning applications for wind farms, according to official figures just published.
Since the Nationalists took power five years ago, 29 out of the 35 major developments referred to them for a final decision have been approved.
The Conservatives, who published the figures, said ministers were sending a message to wind farm companies saying: “Come straight to us and you have an 80 per cent chance of success”.
Conservation charities warned the planning system has a “high risk” of falling into disrepute thanks to the Scottish Government’s desperation to meet its green energy targets.
Turbine applications are only referred to ministers in the largest cases, with those with a capacity of more than 50MW requiring their consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.
The Daily Telegraph recently disclosed how wind farm companies have quadrupled the number of appeals lodged against council decisions to reject planning permission.
Even where the appeals are also rejected, they are increasingly demanding the SNP administration in Edinburgh overturns the decision.
John Lamont, Scottish Tory chief whip, said: “We now have hard evidence about just how pro-wind farms the SNP is.
“It is bad enough that the Scottish Government overturns rejections made by local council, even after local people have said no, planning officials have said no, and councillors have said no.”
Douglas Ross, planning convener of Moray Council, said: “The figures regarding wind farms get more and more alarming and it is amazing there should be such a high percentage of Section 36 approved by the government.
“I worry that councils will decide it’s not worth objecting as they could spend a lot of money when the outcome is a fait accompli.”
The figures show eight of the 29 large projects waved through by SNP ministers were in the Highlands, including schemes at Gordonbush and Strathy North in Sutherland.
Two extensions were approved for the Whitelee wind farm on Eaglesham Moor in East Renfrewshire, which is now Europe’s largest with 215 turbines.
Two more in the Western Isles were given the green light by ministers, two more in Moray and two in Shetland including the Viking wind farm on Shetland, which will become the third largest in Scotland.
SNP ministers have also granted planning permission to large wind farms in Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, East Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Scottish Borders and South Ayrshire.
The Scottish Borders project, titled Fallago Rig, was approved for construction in the Lammermuir Hills despite a six-year opposition campaign from local communities.
This newspaper disclosed last week how the area is on course to house 1,000 turbines amid accusations that ministers are bullying the local council to ignore public hostility.
Helen McDade, head of policy at conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said: “Local people do not have any confidence in the system, particularly if you can win at a public inquiry then still be overruled by the government.
“The planning system is at high risk of falling into disrepute.” But the Scottish Government said ministers back the opinion of local authorities in more than 70 per cent of cases.
A spokesman said they carefully consider all submissions made by the public and take into account the impact on the environment.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/11/13/snp-ministers-wave-through-83-per-cent-of-large-wind-farms/