Planning fees for large renewable energy projects should be increased to raise money for Highland Council, it has been claimed.
Anti-wind campaigner Lyndsey Ward claims the punitive cost of lodging an application in England – which can be 10 times higher than in Scotland – is bringing more and developments north of the border.
And she argued that the additional revenue could be used to plug the budget gap which the local authority is facing in the next two years.
Ms Ward said: “The Highland Council cuts are insane when we are subsidising the wind industry.
“In a simple stroke, thousands more pounds could be poured into the council’s coffers to make our roads safer, our children given the required education and boost our services.”
Ms Ward said she had been told by a developer at a recent windfarm exhibition that they were spending £22,000 to lodge an application, whereas the same plans would be charged about £250,000 in England.
She said: “If we charged the same amount as England to deal with these highly complex planning applications I believe that a) the Highland Council and councils across Scotland would not get so swamped with planning applications and b) the planning fees would at least cover the cost of processing them and any PLIs (public local inquiries) and appeals that may follow.
“The low fees are encouraging developers to chance their luck in Scotland with speculative applications at the expense of our vital services.”
According to the Scottish Government, fees under the Electricity Act were increased in April 2013.
A spokesman defended the current policy, insisting: “Scotland’s massive green energy potential is bringing jobs and investment to all parts of the country, and onshore wind is a part of that renewable energy revolution, which is also helping to cut household bills.
“As such, we have no plans to increase application fees to prevent renewable developments coming forward,” he added.
“Our policy on wind farms ensures we strike the right balance between our energy needs and potential, and the need to protect some of our most precious scenic assets – which is why applications are only approved when they meet strict conditions and why no wind farm developments can go ahead in National Parks and National Scenic Areas.”