With five planning proposals a day, activists fear wild land will be overrun by ubiquitous turbines, writes Mark Macaskill
The rush for green energy is generating seven wind farm proposals a day in Scotland, prompting warnings that it is a gravy train threatening to “career out of control”.
Since March 2012, councils have received 2,508 planning applications for wind farms, an average of about 35 every working week. Aberdeenshire has borne the brunt of proposals, receiving 428, followed by Highland (376) and Orkney (371).
The true figure is likely to be higher as it does not include proposals lodged with South Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire councils.
The Scottish Conservative party, which obtained the data under the Freedom of Information Act, said that the trend was at odds with pledges by the SNP to ensure areas of the country are protected from the threat of turbine development.
The Tories warned that the flood of applications was putting the planning departments of local authorities “under immense strain”.
“Alex Salmond has played to the gallery on this one, but the figures show the rush of wind farm applications remains intense,” said Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservatives’ energy spokesman. “Even if a council does reject an application, there is a good chance the turbine-hungry Scottish government will overturn the ruling in pursuit of its own overly green policies.
“We appreciate that wind farms have a place, but the fact that there are seven wind farm applications a day in Scotland proves this is a gravy train threatening to career out of control.”
Some local authorities have previously voiced concern over the number of wind farm submissions from energy firms.
Many are large-scale, requiring significant work, and placing a weighty burden on planning chiefs.
Next weekend, protesters against wind farms from across Scotland will converge on Perth for the SNP’s annual conference.
Activists claim that Scotland has one of the highest concentrations of consented turbines of any country in the world.
Two-thirds of the proposed wind farms have not yet been built but a report by Scottish Natural Heritage suggests that turbines are visible from almost half of the country. Among the more controversial developments is approval for St Andrews University to erect six 328ft turbines on farmland in Fife. It means turbines taller than Big Ben will be visible from the renowned Old Course at St Andrews.
“Alex Salmond must be the last person in Scotland who doesn’t think his wind policy is in urgent need of reform,” said a spokeswoman for Scotland Against Spin, the national anti-wind farm alliance.
“Scotland is on track to become a giant wind farm landscape, and already the disastrous environmental and economic consequences are plain.”
Meanwhile, the John Muir Trust (JMT) has called for a £100,000 public inquiry into a proposed 34-turbine wind farm at Glenmorie in Easter Ross to be put on hold.
JMT said that the appeal should be halted pending a Scottish government map that will determine areas of the country that can be designated as wild land. The charity believes the site of the wind farm is on wild land, which would make the area immune to development.
“Until the wild land map is finalised, a key element of the inquiry will become bogged down in speculation,” said Helen McDade from JMT.
“We are clear that the Glenmorie site is on wild land, but we expect the developers to dispute that point. It makes sense to delay the inquiry until the boundaries of the map have been finalised so that the inquiry can deal in facts rather than conjecture.”
A Scottish government spokeswoman said that some councils had received £725,000 in extra funding to help cope with new energy proposals. “Our policy on wind farm applications aims to strike an appropriate balance between Scotland’s massive green energy potential and the need to satisfactorily address the impacts on communities and the environment,” she said.