The 2009 SNH guidance is to be reviewed this year.

From the discussion at the recent Scottish Renewables Business Breakfast, the review will need to take account of the evolving issue of cumulative effects. This includes the concentration of wind turbines in some areas, the visibility of multiple wind farms from some settlements and key transport routes, and character blurring through the loss of distinctiveness of diverse areas.

A difficulty of current assessment practice is that projects are assessed in the worst light because account has to be taken of other projects even if those are unlikely to be approved. Cumulative assessments (CLVIA) are getting too cumbersome.

The Scottish Government favour local councils producing spatial frameworks for wind energy development, as supplementary planning guidance. SNH can provide landscape input. However, delegates at the Breakfast voiced concerns that councils are producing frameworks which are not consistent with the Government’s guidelines. There was also concern that spatial frameworks tend to be influenced by two dimensional data, rather than the three dimensional landscape perspective. Often SPGs come to be applied prescriptively, rather than being the guidance they are supposed to be.

Cumulative effect is a difficult issue for SPGs, because the cumulative effect can extend over a number of different council areas.

The influence of SNH on SPGs varies. There was a call for SNH to articulate a clearer vision for some areas, rather than through comments on individual developments. SNH were also encouraged to assist training local councillors to raise their awareness and understanding of siting and design issues.

SNH is about to issue new guidance on small scale wind energy proposals.

Neil Collar