We’re pleased to let you know that the Petitions Team are hopeful that they will be able to start uploading your submissions to the Petition on to their website some time during the next week.  https://scotlandagainstspin.org/2021/06/petition-update-submission-deadline-extended/

The response has been tremendous and a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to give their views.  We are informed that the only negative response we have had is from the Scottish Government’s Chief Planner.  It can be read here  PE1864 Response from Chief Planner

You can read our response to him below.  This is the full version which was then summarised to get it down to the 800 word limit.  The Chief Planner suffered no such restrictions.



The Chief Planner’s update in relation to the review of Scotland’s National Planning Policies is useful, but, with respect, it does not advance the issues which are focused in this Petition.  SAS agrees that everyone in Scotland should reap the benefits of renewable energy, but those benefits should not come at any cost. That is what current Guidance in SPP and NPF4, the Energy Policy Statement and related documents all say. It is not enough to pay lip service to the cliché of “the right development in the right place.”

SAS submits the following observations in reference to the Chief Planner’s comments.

Legislative Framework

The Petition refers not only to decisions made for all wind turbine/farm applications following public inquiry but also to the rate at which the Scottish Government and its Reporters overrule local decision making.

This is confirmed from the SG FOI response 28 October 2020 (ref. 202000095942) in relation to s36 (>50MW) wind farm applications:

1          Between 2015 – 2020:

61 wind farm applications were received of which 42 applications were approved (69%)

32 wind farm applications were referred to Public Inquiry of which 16 applications were approved (50%)

In the same period (2015-2020) planning permission appeals decided by Reporters appointed by Ministers for wind farms 50MW or less, show 132 appeals of which 76 were allowed (58%). https://www.gov.scot/publications/wind-turbine-appeal-decisions-statistics/

2          Further information for the period 2012-2016 is available, analysed by Brodies LLP https://brodies.com/assets/uploads/files/downloads/on-shore-wind-consent-success-rate-in-scotland-renewables-2017-0-1.pdf

The key findings are:

There is a 64% success rate for section 36 applications over the last five years;

88% of applications succeeded where no public inquiry was held 

These statistics show there is a healthy success rate (64%), but that it halves if there is a public inquiry, triggered by an objection from the planning authority or by a developer’s appeal.

3          Consultation; Developers obviously benefit from prioritising consultation with the planning authority to avoid an objection, but there is no incentive to consult with the local community.

Communities in England are reassured by the fact that a proposed development will only succeed if it is in an area identified as suitable in a local plan and the planning impacts identified by the local community have been addressed and there is majority community support.  This is called the “Localism Agenda”.

Scottish communities cannot rely on any such comfort. It is high time they were able to.

As internet streaming and recordings have only occurred since 2017, it is unlikely the Chief Planner would be aware of prior unacceptable behaviour.  SAS members have experience over a decade as both participants and supporters of those taking part in oral proceedings.  While belittling and harsh questioning of public witnesses is not universal, it happens frequently enough to be a deterrent to others considering taking part in the inquiry process.

Community engagement with the planning system

1          Inquiries

We welcome the Chief Reporter’s acknowledgement that the inquiry system has some deficiencies and that measures are being considered to enhance the engagement of communities. SAS has to say that, regrettably, aggressive questioning of community representatives, courtroom style cross examination, and above all the subordination of community interests is still all too commonplace. Applicants’ closing submissions frequently pour scorn on local concerns, conveniently forgetting that it is the communities that have to host the development for at least a generation. There are of course honourable exceptions.

This Petition is not about the need for renewables. Communities understand the net zero agenda. The Petition is about how the receiving public is being treated on the road to net zero.  The Petitioners contend that the public – or “local people” as they are disparagingly called – are generally very unhappy, and specifically they are being gradually excluded from the type of discussions which affect them most. These are the local impacts of the decision making process, exemplified by the indifference to proper consultation and explanation, the hostility of Public Examinations, and the very real impacts of the installations themselves once they are installed and operating.

2          Consultation

In 2015 SAS sought the Scottish Parliament’s support in urging the SG to increase neighbour notification distance for wind turbine applications from the present 20m.  http://archive2021.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/turbineneighbournotification

A change to statutory requirements was refused and the Petition resulted in the issue of Good Practice Guidance on Public Engagement for sub 20MW turbine proposals. https://www.gov.scot/publications/public-engagement-sub-20mw-wind-turbine-proposals-good-practice-guidance/

The spirit of this Guidance has been largely ignored by developers who continue to take a cursory and dismissive approach to public consultation, mainly by ignoring the need for it.

Although the rules require developers to lodge a “Public Consultation Report” these are in general so token and pro-forma as to be almost meaningless and beyond constructive criticism. By the time they are produced with Inquiry papers, it is too late. The Committee will know that Local Authorities have no power to require developers to engage effectively with the public, nor to scrutinise their performance in that regard.

In Scotland, statutory windfarm pre application public notification and consultation is still very much a tick box exercise. Covid-19 procedures, requiring “virtual criticism” have made this even more the case; consultation in areas where broadband speeds are slow or non existent makes a mockery of the exercise, and allows developers to claim a lack of interest.

The charity Planning Aid Scotland (PAS) is very helpful, but it is staffed by volunteers and does not have the resources to help with scrutinising the vast number and thousands of pages of technical and complex documents within a wind farm application.  An EIA report can run to 700-800 pages, and costs at least £500 in hard copy. For practical purposes, EIA-Rs are almost entirely inaccessible to small groups.

PAS provides valuable advice and training, but their website confirms that: We offer clients of the Advice Service advice on how to represent themselves, or how to secure the services of an appropriate professional. We do not have an advocacy role and do not submit planning applications or make representations on behalf of clients.

Many communities are so overwhelmed with windfarm applications that together with their ‘day jobs’ there is no time for training, let alone effective scrutiny. The reality is that communities and community-based organisations require expert help to cope and enable them to participate fully in the planning process. This help must be obtained pro bono, or otherwise it is in reality unavailable.

The Chief Planner’s comments do not really address the concerns we have raised. There is a significant “reality gap” between the state of affairs he describes and the gritty reality of managing consultation about windfarms, and in effectively opposing such applications.

Four cost effective solutions are proposed.

1          Advertise for, and constitute a panel of lawyers (solicitors, solicitor advocates and counsel) prepared to contribute to the effort. They would be paid at Crown Junior Rates, as a ready analogy. Appointments would be for not more than two years at a time.

2          Make consultation compulsory, meaningful, detailed and subject to scrutiny.

3          Impose Independent scrutiny by a legally qualified person (funded by a developer) of the manner in which public consultation is managed in each case, leading to an independent  report to either the Planning Committee, or to a Reporter if there is an inquiry.

4          In appropriate cases, where there is a real issue to be argued, provide informed advocacy/legal assistance to community groups by a legally qualified person with preparation for, and conduct of a public inquiry.

This Petition is simple, fair and would be easily financed through an increase in planning application fees which are still cheaper in Scotland than those in England for all sizes of development.

If the SG truly believe that the majority of rural communities support further wind farm development, as the industry repeatedly says, then they have nothing to fear and no reason to refuse the reasonable requests outlined in the Petition.

Scotland Against Spin








SAS Volunteer

We publish content from 3rd party sources for educational purposes. We operate as a not-for-profit and do not make any revenue from the website. If you have content published on this site that you feel infringes your copyright please contact: webmaster@scotlandagainstspin.org to have the appropriate credit provided or the offending article removed.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *