Planning & Environment

Well done to Scottish Renewables for another great Planning Conference. The overarching theme was the challenge ahead if the Government’s renewables target is to be reached.

Here’s my take on the Conference discussions:

  • Politicians make most of the decisions, and they listen to people, so public engagement is vital
  • Engagement needs to avoid the inherent assumption that the renewables industry are right
  • Inward investors need to be encouraged – they want certainty and transparency
  • The technical details of wind developments mean these are the most difficult applications for planning officers to deal with – rather than each council having to struggle separately, centres of excellence should be developed
  • Small wind developments are particularly problematic, and planning officers need assistance to be able to take a proportionate approach to information gathering. The forthcoming review of permitted development rights for non householder development might be an opportunity to give farmers more PD rights for wind turbines? More radically, could there be a process of self-certification for technical aspects such as noise – for small developments within specified thresholds?
  • The environmental assessment process and language needs to change
  • Culture is changing, but there is still plenty scope to move from adversarial to collaborative approaches (and it was disappointing how few local authority planners attended the Conference, despite it being organised in association with the RTPI)
  • If we are to avoid planning by appeal, the Scottish Government need to take a more active role in scrutinising local authority supplementary guidance, which too often do not comply with national policy
  • What can the forthcoming NPF3 do?
Neil Collar

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