Stuart Young is absolutely right in his comments about the weakness of the
planning system in dealing with wind turbine applications (“Approval for
wind turbines sparks protest at ring of steel”, The Herald, September 18).
We are in the midst of a feeding frenzy for international wind speculators
and the result is development which is piecemeal, chaotic and needlessly
I challenge anyone who drives or flies across Scotland to discern a
rational central planning policy, or even consistent local planning
policies, in the hotchpot of ill-sited, out-of scale turbines which litter
our countryside. This is because, in effect, there is none.
Planning guidance for turbines is deliberately very loosely worded so that
developers can always find “exceptional” reasons why their turbines can be
sited inside the supposed 2km buffer zone around people’s homes – or by
beauty spots, or on protected landscapes, or on skylines, or on peatbogs,
or near important habitats for rare birds or bats, or indeed anywhere else
the guidance “recommends” avoiding.
Scottish Natural Heritage and local authorities churn out endless bumf
about cumulative impact and spatial planning, but the Scottish Government
does not allow either to be categorical about where turbines cannot go
under any circumstances. In any case, by the time the guidance comes into
force, it is always already out of date.
Because of their size, impact and importance to the economy and security of
a country, power stations and their associated infrastructure should be
nationally planned, and indeed conventional power stations in the UK –
whether nuclear, gas or coal – are. Wind farms, however, are different.
Abandoning central planning, the UK and Scottish Governments handed over
the responsibility for the number and location of turbines to private
speculators. The UK Government threw huge subsidies at private developers,
ensuring they were a licence to print money even if the wind resource was
poor. The Scottish Government in turn set the world’s most ambitious
renewable energy targets and made sure the planning system had its hands
tied behind its back when it came to turbine applications.
Despite Scotland already hosting two-thirds of the UK’s turbines, our homes
and horizons continue to be besieged by insatiable wind speculators from
across the world while our electricity bills rise inexorably. When will our
politicians put their voters’ wellbeing and livelihoods before vainglorious
renewable energy targets?
I agree with Stuart Young’s comments. However, Caithness covers an area of
1844 sq km, a giant landscape in comparison to minuscule East
Renfrewshire’s 174 sq km which is home to 230 industrial turbines with
another 39 awaiting approval. Not all of the turbines are within the East
Renfrewshire boundary, some spilling into another local authority, but they
are viewed as one large windfarm by its residents.
No mention is ever made of the huge number of applications for small to
medium-sized turbines (which were classed as industrial sized only a few
years ago) pouring into our planning departments on an almost daily basis
from every greedy landowner in the country desperate to cash in on the
These “little ‘uns” are fast filling in the few remaining gaps in East
Renfrewshire’s once beautiful countryside, helping to complete the ring of
steel around Glasgow’s entire south side.