A recent written question in the Scottish Parliament was obviously intended to highlight how often objections from statutory consultees (SNH, SEPA and Historic Scotland) and councillors have been ignored.

The starting point is that the Scottish Ministers/ reporters have consented 34 wind developments in the last 5 years.

30 involved refusals/ objections by the planning authority (the council). However, only 23 out of 63 planning permission appeals were successful, so in the majority of those cases the councillors’ decision was upheld. Planning authorities are much less successful in objecting to section 36 applications: of the 11 section 36 applications granted by the Ministers, the planning authority had objected in 7.

In each of these 7 cases the Ministers’ decision was informed by recommendations from the reporter(s) who conducted a public inquiry – the same group of reporters who upheld the majority of planning authority decisions in planning permission appeals. The reporters have essentially found that planning authorities’ objections to section 36 applications are of less merit/ quality. Is this because the difference between technical and lay opinion is more marked in larger scale wind developments?

Statutory consultee objections have had more mixed results. SNH have also been more successful in planning permission appeals, “losing” only 1, compared to unsuccessful objections to 6 section 36 applications. SEPA didn’t fare so well with planning appeals, “losing” 4, but they had not objected to any of the section 36 applications which were approved. Historic Scotland were only unsuccessful in objecting to 1 section 36 application.

The Question asked how often the objection failed. What we’ve not been told is how often the objection by a statutory consultee succeeded, ie. permission was refused.

Neil Collar

Partner at Brodies LLP
Neil is a partner at Brodies LLP and consistently rated as one of Scotland’s leading planning lawyers. He is well known for both his planning inquiry advocacy and his advisory work. Neil has a particular interest in renewable energy developments.
Neil Collar