Frustration at interference in planning system

editorial image

Local Democracy Reporter

Over the past ten years, 58 appeals were made to the Scottish Government against a planning application refusal from Scottish Borders Council. Out of these, the decision was reversed in 25 cases by Scottish Government Reporters.

This figure includes 8 out of 21 decision on windfarms.

In Berwickshire the most recent example was the granting of planning permission for the eight turbine Howpark wind farm at Grantshouse in April this year. A Scottish Government reporter overturned a decision by Scottish Borders Council to refuse consent for the development after concluding that objections, based on noise and visual impact, were not sufficiently strong to warrant refusal.

The Borders figures were revealed in response to a question from Hawick Councillor Neil Richards at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council last week.

In response to the question, executive member for planning and environment Tom Miers said that since 2009, 43% of decisions by Scottish Borders Council have been overruled by the Scottish Government on appeal.

Appeals can be made to the Scottish Government if the Planning and Building Standards Committee has rejected a planning application. Decisions go to the planning committee if they are major developments or controversial.

Commenting after the figures were revealed, Councillor Neil Richards said: “The local community were strongly against the Pines Burn wind farm and Scottish Borders Council’s refusal of the application reflected that. For the Scottish Government to overturn this decision and impose a wind farm on residents was hugely frustrating.

“However, it now appears that this type of interference by Holyrood is quite common and that developers stand a good chance of getting permission if they go to the Scottish Government.

“As a councillor it is extremely frustrating that Edinburgh is so often interfering with local decision making and it’s sending out a message that developers are more important than the views of local communities.

“It is easy to get the impression that the SNP don’t really care about Borderers and their views.”

Borders Conservative MP John Lamont added: “While onshore wind has a role to play in Scotland’s energy mix, there is certainly a feeling in the Borders that we have more than our fair share of wind turbines.

“For local people to be ignored so readily by the SNP Government is truly shocking. It should be local communities and local councillors deciding whether wind farms or other large developments are right for rural areas, not a form filler in Edinburgh. This simply should only happen in rare cases and the planning system is in clear need of reform.”