The Scottish Government and Scottish Renewables have recently introduced guidance, and a protocol, on the recommended level of community benefit of at least £5,000 per installed MW for onshore wind farms. This has followed on from consultation on the draft version of the Scottish Planning Policy.
Being aware of the new recommendations, Southdean Community Council members and others attending the latest Cummings Hill Community Liaison Group were astonished to discover that Infinis, a member of Scottish Renewables, had no intention of adopting the new protocol, or following government recommendations.
The reason cited was also against Scottish Government guidance, as the developer felt that any increase to £5,000 from the current £3,500 offered would be unlikely to lead to removal of the community council objection.
Guidance clearly states that community benefit is not a planning consideration, despite Infinis attempting to make it so, and there are a number of other points of contention, as can be seen from the responses to an error-strewn application for a development in close proximity to Carter Bar, the iconic entry point to Scotland, on the A68.
With three large-scale wind farm applications and a proposed distillery at various stages of the planning process within the very near vicinity, a sub-optimal application which pays little attention to local communities and ignores government guidance seems destined for a Darwinian type of natural deselection.
The other developers have not taken such a confrontational approach to consultation with our community.
A serious point also needs to be made. The Scottish Government guidance to communities and the protocol by Scottish Renewables have recently been issued.
The Cummings Hill application was filed post that event, and is the first application to be lodged by Infinis since listing on the stock market.
If guidance is being ignored, how are communities supposed to react to such events? There does not seem to be any process to ensure guidance is adopted.
Either this is an anomaly from an inexperienced project manager, which should be corrected, or, if not, a portent of something considerably more serious, with guidance and protocol being rendered ineffective at an early stage.
This needs to be urgently addressed if credibility is to be maintained.
Southdean Community Council