Planning & Environment

The Scottish Government have published a consultation paper seeking views on proposals to transfer the determination of all onshore hydro scheme applications of 50 MW or less to planning authorities.

Currently 1MW is the threshold for hydro schemes to require application to the Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act. Historically this provided an opportunity for the Fisheries Committee to be consulted, but that has been superseded by the CAR regime.

The move would bring Scotland in line with England and Wales. However, the consultation paper notes the implications of the Scottish hierarchy of development, which enables schemes under 20MW to be delegated to planning officers for decision. If the officer refuses permission, there is no right of appeal to the Scottish Ministers – the developer’s remedy is to apply to the planning authority’s local review body for review of that decision, and the LRB makes the final decision. There is already some nervousness among renewables developers that this combination of delegated decision-making and local review bodies could stymie sub 20MW schemes. Hydro developers need to take heed of this risk when responding to the consultation paper.

Neil Collar