The march of wind farms across Scotland could spread to towns and cities under a revamp of planning rules, it was claimed yesterday.
Ministers have responded to criticism from conservationists and unveiled proposals to outlaw turbines in national parks and designated scenic areas.
But that will only protect one-fifth of the country, raising fears of more wind farms in areas where the vast majority of people live.
The proposed rules say wind farms should be at least 1.6 miles (2.5km) from communities, compared to 1.2 miles (2km) at present. However, with turbines of up to 450ft now being built – taller than the London Eye – opponents said the ‘destruction of our natural environment will continue’.
The policies are set out in the third National Planning Framework and draft Scottish Planning Policy, which will influence development plans and guide planning decisions in areas such as transport, energy and infrastructure for the next 30 years.
Planning minister Derek Mackay said: ‘Scotland is enriched by a high quality environment and many special places to live in and visit. These physical assets underpin our economy and our quality of life and that i s why we need to ensure developments go in the right place, providing positive benefits for our communities and environment.’
Yet the new report states: ‘Development plans should support the development of wind turbines at l ocations where impacts on the environment and communities can be satisfactorily addressed.’
Linda Holt, of campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said: ‘People fighting inappropriate wind developments will be very disappointed. Scotland only has two national parks and without buffer zones they are still at risk of having 460ft turbines towering over their boundaries.
‘It’s still open season for the wind industry in Scotland. Any extra discouragement to turbinise the wildest or most scenic land just ups the pressure on the remaining areas. This is where the vast majority of people live and where there are plenty of cherished natural landscapes which wind farms will ruin. This review of Scottish planning policy amounts to fiddling while Rome burns.’
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s energy committee, said: ‘There is no suggestion the SNP will cool its overall enthusiasm for wind energy. That will result in even more pressure for the remaining 80 per cent of the country which won’t be spared through these guidelines.
‘This announcement is an admission by the Government that areas of scenic beauty are not compatible with wind farms but this concession comes too late for many communities.’
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie warned against compromising ‘our ability to meet our carbon reduction and renewable energy targets’.
He added: ‘Steering developments away from important landscapes and habitats must be balanced against the need for a transition to a sustainable society.’
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