Energy clients are often concerned on the planning risk of wind farms and questions of "What's the likelihood of success?" and "How long is it going to take to get consent?" will often be of concern. Obviously the answer is: "Well…it depends".

The latest excitements of the approval of the NPF4 and the publication of the Scottish Government's Onshore Wind Policy Statement have a focused attention on wind farm consenting as it is seen as having a clear role in Scotland's progress to Net Zero.

We have previously posted on success rates and decision durations etc. of wind farm decisions in Scotland (see our 2012-2016 report here) and this is an opportunity to provide the next update. This blog focuses on Section 36 consents (i.e. for wind farms 50MW or greater) over the past 6 years (2017-2022) rather than smaller farms that would be subject to the usual planning regime.

Our Findings

What's the success rate?

  • Overall, consent was granted in 74% of applications which is a demonstration of the positive steps Scotland has made in advancing onshore renewable energy.
  • The success rates varied significantly between years – all decisions in 2020 were granting consent, whereas success rate was only 44% the prior year (2019).
  • The average success rate where a public local inquiry (PLI) was held ("PLI decisions") was only 60% (principally due to 2018 and 2019 where only 40% and 28% of PLI decisions, respectively, were granted consent).
  • Over the 6 years, all applications where a PLI was not held were granted consent, reflecting that PLIs are held where there are contentious issues (which is why the local authority would have objected).

How long will it take?

  • The 6-year average time for determination was 3 years.
  • The longest period for a decision was an amazing 10 years and 10 months (Strathy South in 2018); the shortest was only 1 year (2022), so it is clear there is a lot of uncertainty over the time frame of decisions and therefore the lead-time for a development.
  • The mean time for a decision without a PLI was only 1 year and 9 months, whereas the average for PLI decisions was 3 years and 6 months. This is slightly skewed by the almost 11 year Strathy South decision in 2018, and without that decision, the figure drops to 3yr and 1 months on average for PLI decisions.
  • Despite the difficulties presented by the COVID restrictions, 2020 and 2021 saw an average time of under 3 years for PLI decisions.
  • 2022 was back at the previous average PLI decision timeframes between 3 years and 4 months (2019) and 3 years and 11 months (2018, excluding the 11-year Strathy South PLI decision). The fastest PLI decision was in 2021 – only taking 18 months.


  • Although planning authority objections automatically trigger a PLI, reporters give parties the option to use written submissions and hearings, instead of and/or in addition to inquiry sessions.
  • Overall PLIs were held in approximately two thirds of applications which demonstrates how often local authorities have been against large scale wind schemes. The 60% success rate mentioned above means that objections from local authorities are only successful 40% of the time.
  • But the use of PLIs has varied over the years. All 6 decisions in 2021 involved a PLI, whereas in 2020, only 1 of the 7 decisions did.
  • The 6-year average for the time for the Reporter to prepare the PLI report was 8 months from the date of the final PLI date. The longest period was 17 months (2019); the shortest, 3 months (2022).
  • The period for decision once the report is issued can still take some time. The 6-year average was 7 months from report to decision, but in one instance it took over 2 years (Strathy South in 2018) for the Scottish Ministers to issue their decision, which clearly shows that there is still a reasonable wait for applicants even once the PLI report has been prepared. It is not all doom and gloom though as the shortest period was only 1 month (Harryburn in 2019).
  • DPEA Guidance Note 23 sets out a target timeframe of 50 weeks from registration to the reporter submitting the inquiry report and/or issuing decision.


Data was taken from the DPEA website for decisions in the last 6 years (2017-2022). Data from extensions or variations to existing consented wind farms are not included in the analysis (i.e. only new wind farm applications were considered).