Michael Cunliffe, a Scottish Government Reporter at the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, a few days ago rejected plans for the eight-turbine Barrel Law wind farm in the Scottish Borders.
The Reporter ruled that this development was surplus to requirements because the Scottish Government has already almost hit its green energy targets.
He cited the Government target to generate about 16 gigawatts [GW] of energy from renewables by 2020. He then noted that against this overall target:
• 6.8GW is operational
• 6.5GW is under construction or consented
• 7-2GW proposals are currently in planning.
Jack Ponton, vice-chairman of the Borders Network of Conservation Groups noted that: ‘This is the first time that a reporter has so explicitly referred to the pending attainment of targets.’
In rejecting the Barrel Law proposal, Michael Cunliffe also cited concerns that the proposed installation would interfere with military radar and detract from the natural beauty of the landscape around Hawick.
He did, however, also made it clear that the vast number of wind farms in the pipeline had influenced his decision.
He accepted that some wind farm proposals might be rejected or not be completed by 2020, but came to the conclusion that ‘the rate of progress and the availability of alternatives suggested that Barrel Law’s contribution would not be as great as it would have been with a larger shortfall against the target, or a lack of other schemes.
The Reporter’s stance is based on a rational principle that is welcome in what has become a highly politicised area of contest. Scottish ministers whose economic case for independence rests heavily on exporting vast amounts of energy to other parts of Brita, may not, however, be pleased.
The position Mr Cunliffe adopted and the judgment he laid down will now, rightly, become major instruments of argument by those opposed to even more wind farm development across Scotland, on and offshore.
A target is a target; and the entire wind sector development has been sold to the population on the basis of reaching that target – which is now demonstrably achieveable.
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