Councils’ wind farm application burden criticised

L-R Graham barker, William Windram, David Parker at the engraved stone in memory of Garry Fay Head Stone Mason on the project, who sadly died recently
L-R Graham barker, William Windram, David Parker at the engraved stone in memory of Garry Fay Head Stone Mason on the project, who sadly died recently

AS Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, confirmed the SNP Government’s commitment to supporting the onshore wind sector, Borders MSP John Lamont is calling on them to help local councils, such as Scottish Borders Council, with the costs of wind farm applications.

Mr Lamont’s contention is that “due to the SNP’s aggressive wind farm agenda, councils are seeing huge numbers of applications being sent to them, with some larger companies being encouraged to flood councils with requests”.

John Lamont MSP said: “Since the SNP set their ludicrous renewable energy targets wind farm applications increased hugely. The only way the SNP can provide 100% of Scotland’s energy through renewables is by building a lot of wind farms and they admitted this when they recently told councils to set aside land for wind farm sites.

“Scottish Borders Council has been placed under a lot of pressure. Every wind farm application costs the council money to put it through the system, and with more applications than ever this is only getting worse.

“Not only is it taking up a lot of our council’s time, it is also costing the taxpayer money. Our council should be investing in improving services here in the Borders but instead they are having to pay for these endless applications. I think it is only right that the Scottish Government help out.”

“If it wasn’t for the SNP’s overly-ambitious targets our council wouldn’t have to be wasting this money. While they have already offered to provide some financial help they have only put up a paltry amount. The people of the Borders shouldn’t be made to pay for the SNP’s foolish promises.”

SBC leader, Councillor David Parker added: “Scottish Borders Council have long been of the view that the application fees that we receive for wind farm planning applications are wholly inadequate and do not cover the costs of processing and dealing with these applications.

“This has put a significant strain on our financial resources and our planning officers and we have been making representations to Scottish Government both directly ourselves and also via Cosla and directors of planning. We have been working to encourage Scottish Government to seriously look at the fees that we receive in relation to wind farm applications and other planning applications.

“There is currently a review of the planning system taking place and this review is considering fees. We have played a full part in that review and Councillor Cook and myself have made representations directly to Ministers on our views.

“We know that Scottish Government recognises the issues that we are highlighting and we are hopeful that the outcome of the planning review will mean that councils will receive better financial recompense towards the cost of dealing with wind farm applications and other applications in the planning system.”

The Scottish Governmen’t support for wind farm developers is shown in a letter from First Minister Alex Salmond to UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey.

Attacking the Westminster Government for not taking decisive action on renewable energy projects, Mr Salmond said: “Across Europe and around the world, governments, citizens and industry are working to develop a low carbon economy, including big increases in clean energy generation – protecting the environment and creating jobs in the process. The binding targets to which the UK and Scottish Governments have each signed up mean that renewables capacity and investment in Scotland is in the interest of communities across these islands.

“The continuing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Renewables Obligation reviews upon which both Governments have consulted risks undermining significantly our ability to meet our shared renewable energy aims.”

The UK Government announced yesterday, Wednesday, that the subsidy for onshore wind energy generation is to be cut by 10%. It is thought that the Treasury had favoured a cut of nearer 25 per cent but MPs on the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee warned that cutting subsidies too fast could increase bills.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change believe that the changes will encourage £25bn in new investment in energy generation between 2013 and 2017.