NFU Scotland calls for overhaul of Planning Process to boost Scottish Wind

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has called for an overhaul of the Scottish planning system. Farmers and landowners are expected to play a key part in the push for 100% renewable energy by 2020 but are becoming increasingly frustrated by what they feel to be inadequacies in the regional planning system. They have contacted the Scottish Government, calling for them to be ‘proactive’ in tackling the growing list of issues and challenges their members are encountering in trying to install renewable technologies on their property.

In a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney,  they have urged the Scottish Government to build upon the 2020 Roadmap for Renewables. They have suggested that an independent group of experts be established to deliver a ‘clear, concise and deliverable renewables strategy’. This group, as envisaged by the NFU Scotland, would also be responsible for developing a clearly defined role for each of the various renewable energy generation technologies and tackling the inconsistencies and constraints that NFU Scotland members are encountering in the various planning departments up and down the country.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller released the following comment: “The Scottish Government’s commitment to renewable energy is positive; it will not only contribute to world-leading climate change targets but will lay the foundations for a new green economy with positive spin-offs for Scottish technology and engineering.

“To date, the transformation of Scotland’s energy base has been dramatic and the ambitious goal of having the capacity to generate 100% of our electricity requirement from renewable sources by 2020 is looking increasingly attainable. Farmers, crofters and landowners have already played a major part in this green revolution, and on-farm investment and collaboration will continue to be a key part of the growth in generation capacity.

“While renewable energy is an exciting opportunity for many of our members, they are looking to the Scottish Government to set out clear standards and priorities to guide and support that investment so that the industry can continue to build upon its strengths and benefit Scotland as a whole.

“Feedback from members interested in the technology has shown that a major stumbling block to progress in this area is that the present regional planning approach can be unclear, and is nearing overload. We have a growing list of incidents where members believe planning authorities have failed to provide proportionate pathways for micro and major developments, and have been inconsistent in the standards demanded from applications. In addition, grid capacity is becoming a significant limiting factor in future developments.

“That is causing friction and the Union believes that an independent expert group would be best placed to tackle such issues and ensure that the protocols and standards needed to guide future investment and planning decisions around renewables are set and guaranteed at national level.

“For the growing number of interested businesses, it would be of considerable benefit were they to receive a clear steer on the mix of technologies, the prioritisation of grid development and the roles of micro and major generation schemes in Scotland. This is necessary, if we are to realise the potential of a blossoming renewable energy economy and also maintain the buy in and commitment of those who are prepared to invest in the future.”

In our experience, it is true that there is a disconnect between the local and national levels of government on the subject of renewable energy. An expert panel as proposed by the NFU Scotland would certainly help the country to achieve it’s target of 100% renewable generation by 2020.