Campaigners across Scotland are celebrating an international ruling that could blow future UK onshore and offshore windfarm proposals into the dust.
A United Nations tribunal has ruled that the UK has acted illegally by failing to provide the public proper access to the decision making process that governs windfarm planning applications.
The case, brought by Argyll grandmother Christine Metcalfe, centred on whether people had access to full information about the potential benefits and adverse effects of turbines.
She alleged that the UK and the EU had pursued renewables policies that denied people the right to be informed about claimed benefits in reducing CO2 – or the potential negative effects of wind power on health, the environment and the economy.
The decision, by the United Nations Economic Commission Europe in Geneva, could affect the validity of future planning consent for windfarms.
According to the commission, the UK flouted Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention, which requires “full and effective public participation” on all environmental issues and demands that citizens have a right to participate in the process.
It has recommended that the UK in future submits all similar planning applications to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan to guarantee a more democratic system.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, however, said the decision “does not affect our ambitions for the deployment of onshore and offshore wind.”
He went on: “The UK is, of course, aware of its obligations under article 7 and will seek to act in compliance with them where those obligations apply.”
Mrs Metcalfe, 69, felt compelled to take the matter to Europe because of her own difficulty in obtaining information about the Carraig Gheal windfarm near her home at Kilmelford in Argyll, which has subsequently been built but is not yet operational.
Speaking earlier today she said: “I’m relieved. It was very gratifying to find that such an important point was upheld. The ramifications will become clearer in time. There will be resistance from various quarters.
“No windfarm developer has ever had to explain the benefits of wind. Evidence tells us that wind power performance shows not only no reduction in CO2 and other harmful emissions, but the very reverse.
“Alex Salmond is driving an aggressive green agenda like an express train across Scotland, bludgeoning anyone who gets in the way as being a Luddite and anti-green.”
Helen McDade of the John Muir Trust wild land charity said: “It is really important that, under the Aarhus Convention, there has been official recognition of what is not being done in the UK which the UK has signed up to and is supposed to be following. This is about democracy.”
The recently formed Alliance Party of Scotland, established to fight the growing proliferation of giant turbines, urged the UK and Scottish governments to declare an immediate moratorium on all further windfarms.
Its leader Richard Crawford said: “There is no longer any excuse to allow this indefensible windfarm scam to continue.”
Industry watcher Stuart Young of the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum said: “This vindicates everything that’s been said up to now and proves both governments have acted illegally over their energy policies for years.”
The Scottish Government claimed the UN body had endorsed its position.
A spokesman said: “This reflects the consultative approach we have taken both when considering windfarm applications and to our renewables routemap.
“Although parts of the convention have been incorporated into EU law, no judgment by the Aarhus Convention Committee under the Aarhus Convention has any weight in UK domestic courts.”
And a spokesman for the trade body RenewableUK said: “The National Renewable Energy Action Plan is not a planning document and the committee rejected a number of challenges made in this case against relevant UK and Scottish Government policy documents.
“Therefore, all the relevant material policies and processes were shown to be compliant with the directive.”
The commission is expected to ratify its draft decision next month.
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