Our guidance on “Visual Representation of wind farms” sets a new standard for wind farm visualisations. The new version is prescriptive – applicants must comply with the key requirements set out in Annex B of the guidance.
We’ve significantly improved public accessibility to visualisations and have included two new types of visualisation to achieve this. The first is the viewpoint pack which requires applicants to provide a set of loose leaf images for members of the public and decision makers to use at viewpoints. The second is a digital viewer which makes it much easier to view images online.
We’ve made these changes in response to a public consultation exercise held during May – July 2013 and by working with a steering group comprising:
- Heads of Planning Scotland
- The Highland Council
- The Landscape Institute
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Renewables
We’re confident that the new images described, as well as the viewpoint pack and digital viewer, will greatly improve public access to wind farm visualisations and provide a reasonable representation of the wind farm proposal. We would welcome your feedback on the methodology we have developed through the enquiries page on our website. We intend to review the guidance again in eighteen months and your feedback will be helpful.
How to use the visualisations
The guidance requires applicants to provide a range of visualisations, each with a slightly different purpose:
* the single frame images in the viewpoint pack are intended for use at the viewpoints assessed by the applicant. Copies should be made available to relevant community councils and the Planning Authority. At viewpoints which are very close to the wind farm proposal it may be necessary to supplement this with the wider panoramas available in the Environmental Statement, as it is unlikely that all the turbines will be captured by the single frame;
* the images in the digital viewer are intended to be viewed on a computer screen. The best representation will be gained by viewing them on a standard PC screen rather than a tablet or other mobile device which will show a smaller image. Snapshots of the proposal can also be printed from the viewer – but it’s better to refer to properly printed images in the viewpoint pack or in the Environmental Statement;
* the images in the Environmental Statement are provided to illustrate the assessment undertaken by the applicant and to show the wider landscape and visual context for those who have not visited the viewpoint(s).
All of the images should be viewed at a comfortable arm’s length on a flat surface. They are designed to provide a reasonable impression of the wind farm proposal when viewed in this way.
Wind farm developers commonly use public exhibitions to engage with local communities and to introduce their plans in public. These are a valuable stage in the planning process, helping the applicant to shape their proposal and to identify, and try to address, public concerns.
To avoid confusion we recommend that applicants should use the same visualisations provided in the environmental statement at the public exhibition. However, you should always view the final set of images submitted at the application stage as the design of the wind farm is likely to have changed. The visual impact can change significantly even through small variations in turbine height and location.
Visualisations have inherent limitations. For example:
• a visualisation can never show exactly what the wind farm will look like in reality due to different lighting, weather and seasonal conditions which vary through time;
• the images should give a reasonable impression of the scale of the turbines and the distance to the turbines, but can never be 100% accurate;
• a static image cannot convey turbine movement or flicker / reflection from the sun on the turbine blades as they move.
It is important to bear these limitations in mind when assessing a proposal and to use as much other information as possible to reach a conclusion on the likely landscape and visual impacts. In addition to the visualisations provided you should:
* study the Zone of Theoretical Visibility map to see where the wind farm will / will not be theoretically visible from;
* refer to the landscape and visual impact assessment in the Environmental