The new report follows on the heels of SNH's updated policy on renewables from April which states that the body will seek to steer future developments away from the Highlands towards the more populated central belt of Scotland. Robert Forrest of the Scottish Renewables Forum finds the trend alarming. "Coming off the hills does not mean you get an easier ride through planning. You get even more objections because there are more people affected," he says.
The latest report is intended to advise SNH's regional staff how to assess and respond to renewable energy projects in Scotland. But according to Forrest, it was produced with no input from or even consultation with the renewables industry despite over a year of industry requests to be involved in the process. "The report also appears to start off from a very negative standpoint," he says. It advises SNH staff not to comment on the merits of specific areas or sites during developers' initial site selection. "They do not want to get involved," claims Forrest. He points out also that its advice for SNH responses at the planning application stage are entirely negative. "It does not give SNH staff any opportunity to agree with the developer that this is an appropriate site for a wind farm," he says.
Among a number of other concerns, Forrest takes issue with SNH's interpretation of public attitudes to wind energy. The report refers to reports and surveys of public opinion in the 1980s in Sweden, California and the UK, but curiously ignores the overwhelmingly positive findings of the 2000 survey of public attitudes towards wind commissioned by the Scottish Executive.