Tories claim SNP planning Borders '˜money grab' over wind farms

Angry Conservatives have claimed the Scottish Government is planning a multi-million pound 'money grab' from the Borders by charging for work undertaken by the local council on wind farm applications.

Wind turbines in Scotland.  Pic: Ian Rutherford
Wind turbines in Scotland. Pic: Ian Rutherford

The proposals are to raise the fees charged for major planning applications under section 36 of the Electricity Act – currently capped at £18,000, of which £12,000 goes to the local authority – to £190,000.

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However, the Tories claim the £12k cap for payment to the council will remain in place, even though council carries out most of the scoping work.

“These new measures would divert more than a hundred thousand pounds for every application away from the Borders and into Scottish Government coffers,” said councillor Tom Miers, executive member for planning and environment at Newtown.

He added: “This is a quite unjustified money grab when most of the work on these big applications is done by the local council.”

And Michelle Ballantyne, Conservative MSP for the South of Scotland, said: “It’s quite wrong for the Scottish Government to take the lions’ share of these fees when the bulk of the work is done by the local council.

“They claim that the council is already compensated via the local authority settlement, but that’s nonsense.

“If that were the case they wouldn’t be paying councils the reduced fee at all. It’s a money grab, pure and simple.”

And in the official response to the proposals, the council’s chief planning officer Ian Aikman stated: “The effective freezing of the fee payable to local planning authorities to a maximum of £12,000 ... is unreasonable, unfair and ill-judged.”

However, the leader of the opposition SNP group at the council, Stuart Bell, said: “The legislation for a planning review is currently going through the committee stages.

“My clear understanding is that the increased planning fees will be money that comes to local authorities for the work that they do.

“The minister [energy minister Paul Wheelhouse] has told me that it is important for councils to be paid for the work that they do.”

The cost of wind farm applications is being looked into by the Scottish Government, but the council says local authorities would not benefit.

This story first featured on our sister site, The Southern Reporter.