The Scottish Government is being challenged by six national organisations to change their policy on assessing major windfarm developments that are opposed by their own expert environmental advisors.
The bodies have joined forces to call for public local inquiries to be automatically triggered when planning applications are objected to by Scottish Natural Heritage, the government’s own quango and a statutory consultee on such proposals.
The open letter is backed by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the Munro Society, the National Trust for Scotland, Ramblers Scotland and the Scottish Wild Land Group.
They highlight concerns over the Scottish Government’s approach to assessing planning applications for major windfarm developments.
The organisations jointly call for the Scottish Government to take a greater heed of their own advisors where serious ecological issues are raised, and to ensure that all such evidence is transparently scrutinised and assessed, by such means as public local inquiries.
The letter states: “Few people dispute the necessity of first reducing our energy use, and then substituting the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy alternatives, to help address the challenge of climate change.
“However, as we have seen, there is public disquiet about proliferation of energy developments in Scotland’s wild land areas.
“It is vital that any decisions on the location of these developments rely on the fair and impartial assessment of all pertinent information and points of view.
“The people of Scotland depend on their government to ensure this happens. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the Scottish Government is doing this in a consistent manner with wind farm developments.”
The organisations claim that in the face of evidence and objections from many different organisations, communities and individuals, the Scottish Government has approved proposals to site colossal wind farms inland, at Stronelairg in the Monadhliath Mountains – with 67 turbines up to 135 metres in height – and offshore, straddling the Firths of the Forth and Tay.
They add: “In both cases the Scottish Government chose to ignore the views of its own expert advisors from SNH. Their advice made it absolutely clear that the impact from these turbines will be very significant, and that the locations were problematic as a result. “It seems iniquitous to us that, having put in place a planning system which invites the expert views of statutory consultees, the Scottish Government too frequently ignores them if they prove inconvenient.
“At the very least, evidence of this calibre from SNH should trigger Public Inquiries.
“We therefore call on the government to commit to taking cognisance of its own advisors. Rather than force objectors to challenge these decisions in the courts at great expense, the Scottish Government should first ensure they have been exposed to the proper and democratic scrutiny that their scale and potential impact warrants.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our policy on wind farm applications aims to strike the right balance between Scotland’s massive green energy potential and the need to protect some of the country’s most scenic and wild areas.
“That has resulted in a ban on wind farm development in areas covering almost a fifth of the landmass of Scotland. Scottish ministers very carefully considered all of the issues raised and all submissions made before coming to a decision on these applications. There are numerous competing considerations to be taken into account in determining these important decisions, and ministers take these responsibilities very seriously.”
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