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Angus Council could face £15 million compensation action if solar farm plans are refused  

Credit:  24 November 2014 | www.thecourier.co.uk ~~

Angus Council could be hit with a £15 million compensation order if plans for a huge solar farm at Tealing are rejected this week, it has been claimed.

It has been recommended for refusal by council officials, however, as it could interfere with an offshore turbine development nearby.

The land at the former airfield is also subject to a rival energy project by Seagreen Wind Energy – a joint venture between Scottish and Southern Energy and Fluor Ltd.

It has already gained conditional council approval for the development of cross-Angus county infrastructure and a sub-station at Tealing, in support of a 1,050mW offshore wind turbine development.

The council said the windfarm would be part of a national development if constructed.

It is understood the farmer who owns the land, Charlie Simmers, has been offered its agricultural value by the windfarm developers.

Sources suggest if the 51.2 hectares is used to harvest solar energy it could achieve a value of about £15 million – far in excess of what the farmer has been offered.

Those favouring the solar option argue the project would be given the green light to proceed were it not for Scottish Government guidelines protecting windfarm developments off the Angus coast.

They believe Angus Council planning officials have gone beyond their remit and the planning application should be approved.

Negotiations between interested parties would then be able to proceed or a planning reporter would decide between the competing development proposals via the compulsory purchase procedure.

A source said: “A refusal of consent by the local authority on the basis of such Government planning policy could give rise to significant blight on the land, for which Angus Council may ultimately have to pay compensation to the landowner.

“Where land has been earmarked or allocated for a government purpose, preventing a landowner from selling his land other than at a substantial discount, then legal blight has occurred.

“In these circumstances, the affected landowner may be able to compel the relevant public authority to take the property off his (or her) hands in order to recoup the loss.

“This is achieved by the service of a blight notice. If such a notice is successful it will be Angus Council, rather than Seagreen, who would then be required to purchase the airfield at a value reflecting the solar farm potential.”

The National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) says planning will play a key role in delivering on the commitments set out in the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Scotland report. NPF3 highlights an aim to reduce total fine energy demand by 12%.

The council paper says the windfarm development would be part of a national development should it be implemented.

While the report says the solar park proposal is not considered to be consistent with local or national planning, it acknowledges it would have capacity to provide power to 6,060 homes – about 11% of the household electricity demand for Angus.

The paper refers to projects in the Firths and Forths of Tay and notes that NPF3 expect proposals for offshore wind to come forward.

The council report considers that NPF3 “states a strong expectation that the offshore developments with which the onshore connection approved (from Barry Buddon to Tealing) will be realised.”

The report does accept that competing land uses on the same land will not generally be a material consideration for the purposes of determining planning applications in all but exceptional circumstances.

It says: “Siting the proposed solar farm on land that has been identified and consented for a national development could delay the delivery of that national development.

“For example, if the solar farm was to be commissioned before the onshore grid connection project proceeds, there could be un-programmed delay in the delivery of national development; indeed it could introduce uncertainty in any compulsory purchase process.

“Such circumstance could compromise the deliverability of the proposed national development and the submissions made in objection by the developer of the proposed national development add further weight to this view.”

The report accepts the solar park could be of environmental benefit but says its potential output is dwarfed by the generation capacity of the offshore windfarm.

It says: “ It is recognised that the proposal would deliver some environmental benefit through the production of renewable energy.

“However the identified generation capacity of 31mW (which would likely be reduced if the scheme was revised to allow co-existence with the national development) is small in comparison to the generation capacity of 1,050mW that would be provided by the offshore wind turbine development.

“Accordingly it is considered the public interest lies with ensuring that a proposal that could prejudice delivery of a national development is not permitted.”

A decision on the solar application will be made by the development standards committee on Tuesday.

Source:  24 November 2014 | www.thecourier.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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