The leader of Aberdeenshire Council has launched a shock attack on windfarms – claiming that the volume of applications is pushing local authorities to the brink.
Jim Gifford said the proliferation of turbines was the most divisive issue the council has had to deal with.
The Tory councillor said the issue had split communities “down the middle” between landowners who were making massive amounts of money from subsidies and those who were not.
There were fresh calls last night for subsidies for turbines to be cut in an effort to bring the situation under control. New research carried out by the James Hutton Institute showed farmers in Aberdeenshire applied for planning permission for 777 wind turbines of all sizes between 2004 and 2011, by which point 284 had been approved.
A senior Conservative MSPclaimed the only way to stem the “gold rush” was to reduce or scrap public subsidies for turbines, paid out of energy bills.
The chairman of Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure services committee, Peter Argyle, said recently there was an urgent need for a moratorium on applications to give planners time to take stock.
Mr Gifford told the Scottish Conservative conference on Saturday that the region was “full” and the council dealt with more applications last year than Scotland’s other local authorities put together. “It is a huge planning issue and our planning service just died,” he added.
“We had to get extra resource, which has cost the council a lot of money. It is the most divisive thing we have ever had. There has been no policy, no plan and everyone with a field with a decent connection to the national grid can fire in an application.”
Mr Gifford said there were only three windfarms in Aberdeenshire and developments consisted of small clusters of turbines.
“We are full but there is nothing in the planning system that can stop people from bringing forward applications,” he said.
“It is dividing all our communities right down the middle between those who have them and making a fortune and those who don’t and are upset about it.
“We need help right now because councils are absolutely dying with this.”
Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s energy committee, echoed Mr Gifford’s comments about subsidies encouraging people to apply for consent for turbines.
He said: “The reason we are seeing this gold rush across swathes of rural Scotland is because people are making vast sums of money out of building windfarms.
“Until we start to reduce or take away altogether the “Everyone with a field and decent connection to the national grid can fire in an application” amount of public subsidy, that is going to continue.
“We have to tackle high energy costs – and building more expensive wind factories with intermittent, unreliable power is not the way to do it.”
The Scottish Government said last night it was up to each council to interpret planning legislation and policy as appropriate. A spokesman said: “We want to see an approach to onshore wind development which balances our huge greenenergy potential with the need to protect areas designated for landscape or natural heritage value.
“Responsibility for dealing with local planning matters rests, in the first instance, with the planning authority. It is therefore for councils to interpret and implement the provisions of planning legislation and policy as it deems appropriate given the circumstances in each case and to ensure that the provisions of the planning system are applied properly.
“Ultimately, it is for local councils to set development plan policies to support the development of wind turbines at locations where impacts on the environment and communities can be satisfactorily addressed.”
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