Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has launched guidance designed to make planning applications for wind energy developments run more smoothly for developers, planning authorities and the communities affected.
The guidance is a result of the GP Wind Project, a Scottish-Government led EU project which looked at the barriers to development of wind energy and ways of reconciling renewable energy objectives with environmental concerns, and actively involving communities in the planning process.
The guidelines were developed in partnership with a wide range of interested parties, including the RSPB, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, SSE and Scottish Power Renewables.
Mr Ewing also announced an “onshore wind taskforce”, which will look at ways to improve the planning consent process for onshore wind while keeping communities involved, consulted and informed, by bringing key players in the planning system including the Scottish Government, developers and statutory consultees (including Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA, and planning authorities) together to critically examine current procedures.
Mr Ewing said:
“I’m delighted to launch these materials, developed with industry, planning authorities and stakeholders, which aim to make the planning process for wind developments go more smoothly for everyone involved.
“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and this guidance will help to ensure that – while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed.
“We have set an ambitious, but achievable, renewable energy target and we are determined to ensure that communities all over Scotland benefit from our renewable energy revolution, which is already bringing jobs and investment.
“But we are determined that this should be done in an sustainable way, sympathetic to the needs of communities and protecting the environment and our fantastic natural heritage.
“This project supports our drive to promote engagement with communities and consultees from the very beginning of a plan’s development.”
Councillor Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said:
“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the GPWIND project. As an island community on the edge of Europe, the Outer Hebrides stand to lose the most from the impacts of Climate Change but these islands are also home to one of the best wind and wave resources in Europe.
“If we are to decarbonise our energy supply, it is vital that the boundless energy resource in areas like the Outer Hebrides is accessed but that this is done in an environmentally responsible way. In this process, we need to address and resolve the challenges which currently hamper the implementation of wind generation, on and offshore, across Europe.
“We view GPWIND as a huge step forward in building a collective understanding of these challenges and the outputs of GPWIND will help us to develop and sustain good practice, enabling our area to become a power house for Europe while sustaining and developing fragile communities.”
Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said:
“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government and other partners from across Europe on the GP Wind project. Given the challenge facing wildlife and people from climate change, we support the continued development of an environmentally sustainable wind energy industry as a proven way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“However, wind energy developments must be sited and designed to avoid damaging our best places for wildlife. The good practice guide and toolkit produced by the GP Wind project should help ensure this happens. We encourage all those involved in the development of wind energy to apply good practice in line with the guide.”
David Gardner, Director of SSE Renewables (onshore), said:
“SSE Renewables is pleased to be a partner in the Good Practice Wind Project. All development projects should be constructed and operated in a responsible way and SSE Renewables is committed to this.
“Many other countries across Europe will benefit from Scotland demonstrating a leading role in delivering good practice in renewable energy development, but we can always learn to do better, and sharing good practice across the industry in this way is a very positive step.”