Page last updated at 00:56 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Where the wind farm war is waged

Map of Scotland showing applications for windfarms

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC news website

A planning conflict is raging across the hills of Scotland.

Sometimes the victors celebrate by planting a string of giant turbines into the soil.

On other occasions, campaign groups are asked to send champagne corks popping into the air for the benefit of the assembled media.

Either way, it usually represents the resolution of a dispute which will probably have lasted for months and sometimes even years.

In the last five years, Scottish Government figures show there have been 35 such showdowns.

That is the total number of proposed wind farm developments which have gone through the public inquiry process.

The current scoreline is rejections 18, approvals 14 - with three matches still to be decided.

Clearly every application has to be treated on its merits, with planning and environmental factors taken into consideration
Scottish Government spokesman

It translates to a success rate of about 40% for wind farm developers.

However, not all parts of the country are created equal, it would appear.

In the Scottish Borders, for example, the approval rating is running at four out of four.

The nation's favourite battle ground turns out to be Perth and Kinross.

A total of 10 developments have gone to public inquiry there since 2004, with more being rejected than accepted.

The process itself is often a lengthy one.

A wind farm scheme usually ends up going to public inquiry after rejection or opposition being lodged by the local council.

Then a number of days are booked at a venue close to the site to discuss the project.

At a later date the Scottish Government delivers its decision based on advice from its reporter.

Energy potential

A spokesman said that ministers faced a delicate balancing act.

He explained: "Clearly every application has to be treated on its merits, with planning and environmental factors taken into consideration.

"We are working to turn Scotland's renewable energy potential into reality and will continue to support developments where appropriate to tackle climate change and help increase sustainable economic growth."

The chief executive of industry group Scottish Renewables Jason Ormiston said the process needed to be improved.

"I wouldn't say the planning system is too complicated but rather the checks and balances in the system do not always produce the right results," he said.

My main concern is our picturesque landscape must not be destroyed in order to satisfy some national agenda
Carolyn Riddell-Carre
Scottish Borders Council

"That is why we have an appeals process and why about 50% of wind farms are successful in appeal."

However, he said it took too long to get a decision - which he blamed on the planning system and statutory consultees being "under-resourced and under-staffed".

He said that these delays could have a knock-on effect in terms of making it more difficult to raise finance for a project, especially during a recession.

Mr Ormiston said there were now signs the process was being speeded up and being designed to deliver "greater consistency" across Scotland.

"The Scottish Climate Change Bill will give the Scottish Government powers to ensure that no local authority can undermine action on climate change," he said.

"Unfortunately, some are doing that through their decisions at the moment."

In the Scottish Borders, they don't seem to see things in quite the same light.

The council has already voiced its frustration that schemes which it turns down are subsequently approved after an inquiry.

Executive member for planning and the environment Carolyn Riddell-Carre said there were serious concerns about the situation.


She said that when councillors went against their own planning officers' advice it was possibly understandable that the decision might be overturned.

However, she said there were major concerns about instances where the council followed officials' recommendations only to see the verdict reversed.

She said: "I think that is very unfair if a council makes a decision in line with its policies approved by ministers.

"If that happens much more often it could be a case of saying let's get local government out of this because it is a farce.

"Just because we are not an overpopulated area does not mean it is acceptable for them to rain down an endless supply of wind turbines."

She added that it was vital the scenic nature of the area was not adversely affected by such developments.

"My main concern is our picturesque landscape must not be destroyed in order to satisfy some national agenda," she said.

It is a conundrum which forthcoming public inquiries will have to try to resolve.

So it looks more than likely that this particular conflict will be coming soon to a hillside near you.

Public Inquiries held between 01/01/04 and 26/01/09

Scottish council Windfarm Status
Aberdeenshire Laurencekirk Refused
Aberdeenshire Clashindarroch Refused
Aberdeenshire St John's Hill, Stonehaven Approved
Aberdeenshire Clochnahill Approved
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Muaitheabhal, Isle of Lewis Decision pending
Dumfries and Galloway Harestanes, Dumfries Approved
East Ayrshire Stonyhill, Muirkirk Refused
East Ayrshire Kyle, Dalmellington Refused
Fife Rossie, Cupar Refused
Highland Beinn Rosail, Sutherland Refused
Highland Achany Estate, Sutherland Approved
Highland Borrowstoun Mains, Thurso Refused
Inverclyde Corlic Hill/Devol Moor, Greenock Refused
Moray Hills of Towie, Banffshire Approved
North Ayrshire Clydeport, Largs Refused
North Ayrshire Green Hill, Kelburn, Largs Decision pending
Orkney Islands Merranblo Refused
Orkney Islands Gruff Hill, Orkney Refused
Perth and Kinross Abercairney, Perthshire Refused
Perth and Kinross Drumderg, Perthshire Approved
Perth and Kinross Greenknowes, Glendevon Approved
Perth and Kinross Tillyrie Farm, Kinross Refused
Perth and Kinross Snowgoat Glen, Perthshire Refused
Perth and Kinross Lochelbank, Perthshire Approved
Perth and Kinross Corb & Coulshill Farms, Perthsire Refused
Perth and Kinross Mellock Hill, Kinross Refused
Perth and Kinross Griffin Forest, Nr Aberfeldy Approved
Perth and Kinross Calliacher Nr Aberfeldy Refused
Scottish Borders Fallago Rig, Scottish Borders Decision pending
Scottish Borders Halkburn & Bow Farm, Galashiels Approved
Scottish Borders Toddleburn, Oxton, Lauder Approved
Scottish Borders Langhope Rig, Scottish Borders Approved
Scottish Borders Drone Hill, Scottish Borders Approved
South Lanarkshire Upper Clyde, South Lanarkshire Approved
South Lanarkshire Penbreck & Carmacoup Forest Refused
Argyll and Bute Black Craig Public inquiry to be held
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Pentland Road, Isle of Lewis Public inquiry to be held
Highland Baillie Windfarm, Caithness Public inquiry to be held
Highland Hill of Stroupsters, Caithness Public inquiry to be held
Midlothian Auchencorth Moss, Midlothian Public inquiry to be held
Perth and Kinross Calliacher, Strathtay Public inquiry to be held
Perth and Kinross Findownie Hill, Dunkeld Public inquiry to be held
South Lanarkshire Nutberry Hill Public inquiry to be held

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