United Kingdom

United Kingdom

EXTRA STUMBLING BLOCK FOR DEVELOPERS IN SCOTLAND

The Scottish Office has introduced a notification system in a new planning guidance for developers and planners of wind farms. A coming amendment to the Environmental Assessment regulations for Scotland will bring its regulations in line with those for England and Wales. The planning guidance also contains information to help local authorities assess planning applications for renewable energy schemes.

All wind energy schemes in Scotland are to be notified to the Secretary of State before they can be approved. The Scottish Office announced this additional procedure for planners and wind project developers when it published new planning guidance on renewable energy. The guidance also requires local and regional authorities to identify the potential of their areas for renewable energy developments and to guide developers.

Secretary of State for Scotland Ian Lang singles out wind turbine developments for notification because of their potential visual impact on the Scottish landscape. He wishes to be informed of any such proposals that a planning authority intends to approve.

One Scottish wind energy observer denounces the notification procedure as "yet another level of manipulation," adding, "It seems to give the Secretary of State more power when it comes to setting the order [Scottish Renewables Obligation (SRO)]. It is already up to him to choose which wind energy applications receive contracts under the SRO. Now he is also empowered to say which of those projects can receive planning permission."

As well as the notification mechanism, the new Scottish Office guidelines reveal that the Environmental Assessment (EA) regulations for Scotland are to be amended. Now an EA is to be required for all wind schemes in environmentally designated areas or where they will have significant effects on valued landscapes, for all developments of more than ten turbines, and for those with an installed capacity of over 5 MW. This move brings the Scottish EA regulations in line with those in England and Wales.

The National Planning Policy Guideline on Renewable Energy (NPPG 6) and Planning Advice Note (PAN) on Renewable Energy Technologies were published by the Scottish Office to help local authorities assess planning applications for renewable energy schemes. The NPPG sets out government policy on renewables while the PAN looks in more detail at renewable technologies and advises planners and developers on handling and preparing planning applications.

Apart from the two new mechanisms to control wind turbine developments, the new Scottish guidelines mirror closely those issued in England and Wales last year (PPG22). Some of the guidance within PPG22 has been criticised by planners and developers alike for not providing enough advice on issues such as noise. Despite its year long consultation process, the Scottish Office appears to have missed a useful opportunity to improve substantially on the advice given to local authorities south of the border.

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