A wind farm development has been approved in Dumfries and Galloway after the local authority failed to respond to an appeal over the project.
The Scottish Government has now ruled that the project involving the erection of nine 200m-tall wind turbines at Margree, near St John’s Town of Dalry, can go ahead.
The appeal was made by Energiekontor UK Ltd in December 2020 following the failure of the council to issue a decision within the statutory period.
In giving the green light for the application, David Buylla, a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, revealed the council had also failed to respond to the appeal.
He wrote: “This appeal is against the failure of the council to determine a planning application within the statutory period.
“The council has not provided a response to this appeal indicating how it would have determined the proposal had the matter still been before it. Therefore, its views on the proposal are unknown.
“Following concern expressed by an objector that this lack of council involvement made it more difficult for them to frame their own response to this appeal, I allowed third parties additional time to formulate their responses.
“Despite the lack of council engagement, I am satisfied that the responses from statutory and other consultees and the representations that have been made by interested parties, together with the appellant’s EIA report and additional environmental information, provide sufficient information to reach a reasoned conclusion on the significant environmental effects of the proposed development and to determine this appeal.
“I am also satisfied that the public’s ability to participate in the decision-making procedure has not been materially impaired by the absence of a council response.”
The council’s failure to reply has angered Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson, who has described the situation as “totally unacceptable”.
He said: “Given the strong local opposition to the development I find it absolutely shocking the council failed to even respond to the appeal process and submit its views.
“For the local authority not to made a decision within the statutory timescales is bad enough but when the matter goes to appeal and there is still not a sufficient response that is totally unacceptable.
“It is little wonder that Dumfries and Galloway is now becoming over-run with windfarm applications because the developers know they only have to wait and appeal to the Scottish Government who will then inevitably grant them regardless of local opinion.”
According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Mr Carson in November, the council only has one landscape architect was employed to work exclusively on wind energy development.
When he asked if the local authority had sufficient available to handle windfarm planning applications, the council responded it was looking to recruit an additional senior planner.
Mr Carson said: “It is quite clear the council does not have enough staff numbers in place to handle the growing number of windfarm applications, but failed to act swiftly and increase its staff accordingly.”
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