The latest newsletter, June 2014, is now available Click here to download. Several very interesting articles. One area well covered is the National Planning Framework 3 which we are all trying to get our heads around. This is a brief summary.
- No increase in the existing 2km setback for turbines, despite their continuing growth. When 2km was introduced, industrial turbines were typically 50-70m. Now it’s double and still growing.
- Setback only applies to cities, towns and villages, so isolated or small clusters of rural homes have zero protection.
- Setback is not mandatory. A wind developer invariably argues his scheme is a special case so the 2km guideline should be suspended, and the Local Planning Authority and SG fall in line.
- Local Planning Authorities may reduce this setback if the settlement’s view of turbines is obscured by other factors. Note setback is only supposed to protect against visual impact.
- Local Authorities may not introduce temporary moratoria on turbine applications or consents.
- Grid capacity may not be used as a reason to limit wind farm development.
The announcement of protection of National Parks and National Scenic Areas (NSAs) is good news but no reference to National Nature Reserves (NNRs) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSIs). It should be mentioned that no wind farm have ever been built within a National park or NSA. Is this therefore real protection or just Spin? Were the NNRs and SSIs included by implication or missed out on purpose? Certainly Scottish Renewables welcome of this restrictions concerns me. The Wild Lands Map 2014 is not a statutory definition of area and whilst we welcome it, albeit express some disquiet that it has lost areas from the 2013 map, we await to see how much protection it provides.
I think many of us have looked at NPF3 and are still trying to get to grips with it. The devil will no doubt be in the detail. Certainly there are some nasty little surprises, not only on wind. However, like all legislation, we really need to see how it is applied. One area not addressed is permitted development which is particularly relevant to sub stations and transmission lines. This is a sleeping monster that is only just raising it’s head. The Electricity Act provides a great deal of protection to the operators and original planning went through when they were a national utility. Also no one envisaged the growth that we are presently experiencing and Councils are unable to attach retrospective conditions. As we see such as Wester Balblair, Knocknagael, Auchterawe and Mossford expand ex-potentially without any control or redress we have a problem even bigger than wind turbines as the proximity to residential accommodation is far closer. Underground cabling does not need planning permission but we have just experienced over two years upheaval which has sent the local farmers screaming for the valium. The compensation agreed is a fraction of what, in fact, the exercise has cost them. The stress has been horrific and damage to agricultural lad will take several years to repair. On top of that this area is the route for the Western Isles HVDC (hi-voltage DC) line and believe it or not they couldn’t put extra conduits during the Beauly-Mossford undergrounding so the whole lot will have to be dug up again. Another issue identified with substations if the lack of background noise measurements taken prior to development or expansion. Appropriate to wind farms also, it has been identified that we must persuade councils to take their own robust measurements prior to approval so that they have a baseline if a noise abatement order becomes necessary. Developer’s Environmental Surveys are often inadequate, often poorly done, and the data not available for public access. After all he who pays the piper calls the tune!