No temporary halt call on wind farm bids, says Frater

A TEMPORARY halt to wind farm applications would leave Scottish Borders Council open to paying expenses, which could run into thousands of pounds, according to the region’s head of planning, writes Kenny Paterson.

Aberdeenshire and Fife councils have both called for moratoriums on applications in recent months, with Aberdeenshire claiming in April to have received 800 planning bids from developers in the previous 14 months.

While the figure for SBC stood at 72 applications during 2011, many believe there are few suitable locations left within the region for major wind farms.

But Brian Frater, SBC’s head of planning and regulatory services, ruled out calling for a short-term ban on such wind farm submissions, saying it would probably lead to action against the council.

He told us: “Previous attempts by authorities to introduce moratoriums have not been successful. Planning legislation requires authorities to continue to determine applications against the policies and guidance they have in place at the time.

“To refuse to determine an application is not a power that is available to planning authorities and failure to determine applications often leads to them being determined at appeal.

“Where this has resulted in the authority taking action that it was not entitled to take, there is a significant risk that an award of expenses would also be made against the council.”

Mr Frater also confirmed SBC had received a joint letter from local government and planning minister Derek Mackay and energy minister Fergus Ewing regarding on-shore wind farms.

The Scottish Conservatives claim the letter is an open invitation to renewable energy firms by asking councils to improve the coverage of spatial frameworks – studies that find appropriate sites for wind farms.

Mr Frater confirmed SBC has produced its spatial strategy in its supplementary planning guidance published last year.

It is understood that Scottish ministers replied to the document by admitting there was limited scope for further major wind farm developments in the Borders.

Councillor Nicholas Watson, vice-chair of SBC’s planning committee, said: “A lot of people feel we are now at a tipping point in the Borders [regarding wind farm coverage].”

Mr Mackay and Mr Ewing’s letter also pledged £300,000 to help Scotland’s 32 councils deal with the increasing number of wind turbine planning applications.