Highland planning chairwoman says there’s ‘no democracy’ when 100% of wind farm refusals are overturned
Highland councillors have spoken out against a “lack of democracy” in the national planning process for onshore wind.
Members of the council’s economy and infrastructure committee reacted strongly to the Scottish Government consultation into its draft onshore wind policy.
In their consultation response, council officers said they are “disappointed” at the lack of a coherent spatial strategy in the draft policy.
The response also states that a planned doubling of wind farm output will create conflict in Highland communities.
The draft response today went before members at the committee on Wednesday, and they did not hold back.
100% of appeals granted
Maxine Morley-Smith, who chairs the north planning committee, said she’s “dismayed” at the national planning process.
The former SNP councillor also accused the Scottish Government of repeatedly overturning local, democratic decisions.
Mrs Morley-Smith claims that since the Scottish Government went into alliance with the Green party, it has upheld 100% of appeals by onshore wind operators. Prior to this alliance, she says the appeal success rate was more like 50/50.
“We’re starting to feel that there’s no democracy,” says Mrs Morley-Smith. “We sit and debate an item for an hour or longer and listen to our communities… then we’re told by the big boys, ‘It doesn’t matter what you think.’”
Mrs Morley-Smith says other areas including Orkney have similar concerns, and told members of the committee to “watch this space”.
Speak with one voice
Other members said the council’s response should have come to members first for debate. The report was provided to economy committee for noting only.
Councillor Derek Louden said he would have liked a strong call for more community ownership in onshore wind.
Mrs Morley-Smith agreed, and suggested an additional recommendation to the report.
Officers will now prepare a paper outlining how communities can take forward local ownership schemes.
Councillor Jimmy Gray, who chaired this item of the economy meeting, accepted these proposals. Mr Gray told members:
“If the Scottish Government is going to completely ignore us, there’s big questions to be asked in relation to that. I would genuinely like us to take into consideration the feelings of local people and their communities.”
Mr Gray said he wants the council to “speak with one voice”.
A further report will now come to committee on 25 February.
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