Aberdeenshire Council is set to consider the imposition of an official moratorium on wind turbine applications and backing for a call on the Scottish Government to cut wind farm subsidies drastically or scrap them altogether.
The North-east local authority’s planning department dealt with more wind turbine applications than the rest of Scotland put together last year, according to council leader Jim Gifford.
The Conservative councillor has branded the wind turbine issue as “divisive”, arguing that the highly emotive wind turbine debate is splitting North-east communities “down the middle”.
Speaking at the Scottish Conservative Conference, Councillor Gifford said the region is “full”.
“It’s a huge planning issue, we are full and our planning service just died,” he said. “We had to get extra resources, which has cost the council a lot of money. It is the most divisive thing we have ever had.
“There has been no planning policy, no plan and everybody with a field with a decent connection to the national grid can fire in an application.”
Research compiled by the James Hutton Institute shows that Aberdeenshire farmers applied for permission to erect 777 turbines of various sizes between 2004 and 2011 with 284 applications approved by the end of 2011.
Aberdeenshire, however, has just three wind farms which all feature small clusters of turbines, according to Councillor Gifford, who insisted: “It is dividing all our communities right down the middle between those that have them and are making a fortune and those who don’t and are missing out.
“We need help right now because councils are absolutely dying with this.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee chairman Peter Argyle recently insisted there is an urgent need for a local moratorium on applications to give planners time to take stock.
And Murdo Fraser, convenor of the Scottish Government’s energy committee, believes moratoria and scraping subsidies may be the only way to stop what he called a Scottish rural “gold rush”.
“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,” he said.
“Until we start to reduce or take away altogether the amount of public subsidy, that is going to continue.
“We have to tackle high energy costs but building more expensive wind factories with intermittent reliable power is not the way to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has made it clear that it is up to local authorities to interpret planning legislation and policy as appropriate.
The spokesman said: “We want to see an approach to onshore wind development which balances our huge green energy 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 so it is, therefore, for councils to interpret and implement legislation and policy as it deems appropriate in each case.
“Ultimately, it is for local councils to set development plan policies to support the development of wind turbines at locations where impact on the environment and communities can be satisfactorily addressed.”
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