A major wind farm consisting of 13 x 115m wind turbines at Daviot near Inverness has just been refused by Scottish ministers at appeal.
Scotland Against Spin, a new national alliance of anti-wind farm campaigners, welcomed the decision, but called on the Scottish Government to take action against “out of control” wind developers which were putting intolerable pressure on already hard-pressed local authorities. SAS spokeswoman Lyndsey Ward from Beauly said:
“The fact is this application should never have been made in the first place – it wasn’t just cheeky or about taking a reasonable chance in the planning lottery. It was an absolutely brazen attempt to completely disregard local planning policy and local democratic decision-making.
Wales-based wind developer, West Coast Energy knew full well it was breaking all the planning rules which is why it offered the highest ever community benefit – equivalent to £10,000 per MW – in an effort to bribe the local community.
Inverness University of Highlands and Island was reportedly delighted with its share – £130,00 per year – and would have accepted despite knowing that this windfarm proposal contravened Highland Council’s own Highland-wide Development Plan, was rejected by local communities and was refused by Highland Council.
When local bribery didn’t work, WCE of course appealed, saddling Highland Council taxpayers with another big bill for defending the democratic decision of Highland Council. This is on top of the costs of processing the initial highly complex application where the fees paid by wind farm applicants typically cover less than one tenth of the true cost to the local authority.
Local communities also pick up the tab in another way for these wholly speculative applications – as long as they are in the pipeline they create planning blight on surrounding land and property, making houses harder to sell and stalling other economic and housing development.
West Coast Energy has a particularly bad track record in making what are really vexatious planning applications for wind farms. In the last few months WCE proposals for wind farms at Clatto in Fife and Corse Hill in Angus have been thrown out by the Reporter at appeal, and two further projects – Cairnborrow at Huntley in Aberdeenshire and Lingo near St Andrews – are currently at appeal. All these were roundly rejected by local authorities and local communities on excellent planning grounds; all these projects were badly conceived from the start and would never have been put forward by a responsible or community-minded company.
The reason for the whirlwind of speculative wind farm applications is of course the level of public subsidy, which is among the most lucrative in the world. The rewards are so great that wind speculators from around the world – backed by international finance – are drawn to Scotland to gamble away on hitting the windfarm consent jackpot. At a meeting of the Lingo Community Benefit Forum last year the chair, Invicta PR’s lobbyist Mark Cummings, tried to assuage the anxieties of objectors by saying that the proposal probably wouldn’t get consent as WCE reckoned with only one in five doing so.
The Scottish Government cannot reduce the subsidies, but it can amend its planning rules, including costs, and introduce some regulation for wind developers so communities are afforded some protection from these ravaging wind predators. The Scottish Government’s first duty is to protect its citizens, not to look after the interests of speculators like West Coast Energy.”
Linda Holt (media co-ordinator)
01333 720 378