My presentation at the recent Scottish Renewables On Shore Wind conference discussed current issues and trends in consenting, including success rates.

Success rates

Thestatistics available for grants of planning permission by local councils do not disaggregate into individual development sectors such as wind.

If permission is refused by the local councillors, there is a right of appeal to the Scottish Ministers. In 2016/17, there was a 68% success rate for on shore wind,significantly higher than the general average of 50% across all sectors. That might reflect a greater reluctance by councillors to accept a recommendation from their officers to grant approval.

Thesuccess rates for on shore wind planning appeals is generally upward, from 38% (2013/14) to 55% (2017/18).

However, the numbers of appeals are dropping, from 40 (2013/14) to 11 (2017/18). That might indicate more success at the local level (the absent statistics), so less appeals are required. Alternatively, developers may be more choosy about which refusals to appeal.

50+MW projects are consented by the Scottish Government under section 36 of the Electricity Act. There is a general upward trend in success rates, from 50% in 2015, to 82% in 2017.

Judicial review risk

Regulators and developers are often worried about the risk of legal challenge. Our research shows that only 18 wind farm projects were subject to legal challenge in the last 15 years. That is all legal challenges, by objectors, and by developers againstrefusals of permissions.

None of the legal challenges were successful. Although the RSPB and John Muir Trust had initial success in having consents overturned, thoseconsents were reinstated on appeal.

The Future

In part due to the poor success rates of legal challenges, there is lobbying foran equal right of appeal to be included in the current Scottish Planning Bill. That would involve objectors/ communities being given a right of appeal against a grant of permission.Alternatively, the right of appeal might be removed from developers.

The Scottish Government does not support an equal right of appeal. Their view is that better engagement with communities at the start of the process will lessen conflict at the end.


While frustrations remain, consents are still being granted, and development activity remains strong.


Neil Collar