Planning Minister Derek Mackay will announce the changes to the National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) which will shape long term economic development and local planning policy in areas such as transport, energy and infrastructure.
Although Holyrood insiders do not expect any major changes to energy policy, observers and industry players will be keenly watching to see the outcome of the ‘wind farms v communities’ debate over the size and dimensions of the so-called ‘buffer zones’ likely to specify the distance between homes and commercial wind farms.
The Parliamentary Energy Committee took extensive evidence from both environmental agencies and commercial energy companies, as well as the Planning Minister.
This ongoing debate was summarised in a recent letter written by Councillor David Parker, Leader of Borders council, to Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. Parker said:
“Council instructs the leader to write to Scottish Government expressing concern over the conflict between the sustainability of Scottish Government energy targets and their impact on Scottish Borders landscapes, being mindful of the present impact of wind turbines in this area. The council reaffirms that Scottish Borders Council planning policy is the best mechanism for balancing protection with appropriate developments.
“The unanimity of the motion reflects a widespread anxiety than an over-reliance on meeting the 2020 target (in reducing greenhouse gas emissions) through onshore wind energy developments would drive a level of development which is at risk of adversely impacting landscapes in our region.”
Environment and conservation groups in Scotland are also concerned about the Scottish government policy in favour of onshore wind, whereas in England, most wind farm applications are offshore.
A ‘no-change’ policy on shale gas (aka fracking) is likely to endure – again there is strong ongoing debate over the ‘environment v economy’ dilemma over the economic costs/ benefits.