THE number of wind energy planning applications going to appeal in Scotland has more than trebled over the past year, new figures show.
Latest statistics reveal that appeals lodged by developers against planning authorities over rejected proposals for wind farms or single turbines rocketed from 15 in 2010-11 to
53 in 2011-12 – the equivalent of one a week.
As a result, wind developers are now behind more appeals to the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Planning and
Environmental Appeals than any group – apart from householders disputing rulings on proposed projects.
The government, which has been repeatedly attacked for overturning controversial proposals that have been refused by councils, said yesterday most developers’ appeals in recent years failed, with on average just one in three succeeding.
But campaigners opposing wind farms said the dramatic rise reflected firms’ growing desperation to cash in on Scotland’s green energy
bonanza before land runs out.Linda Holt, spokeswoman for Communities Against Turbines Scotland, said: “This is part of the feeding frenzy across Scotland, with developers racing to get permission as fast as possible because they can see there is a lot of money to be made. They are increasingly anxious that subsidies and land are running out.
“Developers routinely budget for appeals now because the process doesn’t cost them that much and they believe there’s a chance the government will give consent because it is pushing wind so much.”
However, planning consultants said the increase was also further evidence that councils were bowing to growing public pressure to limit the rising number of wind farms.
Robert Murphy, planning consultant with Smiths Gore, which advises wind farm developers, said: “The figure suggests that more developers are bringing forward more schemes for planning that are subsequently being refused, and could also indicate a harder line among planning committees in turning down such applications at committee stage.
“Refusal may also reflect the quality of the application in certain cases.”
However, the Scottish Government put the rise down to faster, cheaper processing of cases thanks to improvements at the directorate. A spokeswoman said recent reforms had streamlined the appeal procedures, resulting in a reduction in the time and cost of examining appeals.
She added: “The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places. Planning authorities have supported the great majority of Scottish Government decisions on major wind farms, and in the great majority of cases [two-thirds] independent reporters appointed by Scottish ministers have upheld the decisions of planning authorities on smaller developments on appeal.”
She added that recent appeals, including a case relating to a planned extension of Whitelee, near Glasgow – already the biggest wind farm in Europe – were still being dealt with.
The figures, published in the directorate’s annual review, showed that the overall number of appeal cases rose from 502 to 556 from 2010-11 to 2011-12.
The largest number of appeals, up from 50 to 61, were categorised as coming from “householders”, relating to complaints by members of the public over refused applications for projects.