By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Anti-wind campaigner Lyndsey Ward has called for the Scottish Government to increase planning fees on large-scale renewables to plug the budget gaps in local authorities.
This is despite claims that the low fees are driving investment and creating jobs across the country.
Ward has claimed that a developer at a recent windfarm exhibition has told her they were spending £22,000 to lodge an application, whereas the same plans would be charged about £250,000 in England.
She said: “The Highland Council cuts are insane when we are subsidising the wind industry. In a simple stroke, thousands more pounds could be poured into the council’s coffers to make our roads safer, our children given the required education and boost our services.”
“If we charged the same amount as England to deal with these highly complex planning applications I believe that a) the Highland Council and councils across Scotland would not get so swamped with planning applications and b) the planning fees would at least cover the cost of processing them and any PLIs (public local inquiries) and appeals that may follow.
“The low fees are encouraging developers to chance their luck in Scotland with speculative applications at the expense of our vital services.”
However, a government spokesman defended the current policy, insisting: “Scotland’s green energy potential is bringing jobs and investment to all parts of the country, and onshore wind is a part of that renewable energy revolution, which is also helping to cut household bills.
“As such, we have no plans to increase application fees to prevent renewable developments coming forward.”
“Our policy on wind farms ensures we strike the right balance between our energy needs and potential, and the need to protect some of our most precious scenic assets – which is why applications are only approved when they meet strict conditions and why no wind farm developments can go ahead in National Parks and National Scenic Areas.”