Wind farm debate
Fergus Ewing, Minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, clarified in a letter to The Scotsman newspaper in April 2012 the Scottish Government’s policy with regard to planning decisions on proposed onshore wind farms.
He stated “Our Scottish Planning Policy and advice makes it clear that developments must always be carefully sited to ensure that unacceptable impacts on the environment or local amenity are avoided or mitigated.” He concluded that “Planning authorities...... will only allow wind farms to be built where the impacts have been found to be acceptable – and unsuitable applications are rejected.”
This being the case, it was puzzling to learn that a number of Midlothian councillors recently voted in favour in granting planning permission for a large scale wind farm on Fala Moor despite being advised that it would significantly exceed the capacity of the landscape to accommodate such a development. Fortunately, however, common sense prevailed and the application was refused by a majority vote.
A particularly worrying aspect of the arguments put forward for granting the Fala Moor proposals was the suggestion that the Scottish Government’s attempts to achieve ambitious targets with regard to renewable energy are being thwarted in Midlothian by an outdated Landscape Capacity Study. It was consequently argued that the capacity study should be reviewed and updated.
By all means carry out a review and update of the study should the council suddenly find itself awash with surplus funds. But I would suggest that such a review would result in few recommendations for change if again undertaken by professional, independent landscape architects.
This is a policy matter, not the fault of professional guidance. In conflict with stated Scottish Government policy, it would now appear to be the view of a number of our councillors that wind farm developments should be permitted within Midlothian even when a potentially damaging impact on the landscape could result. It is, of course, their political prerogative should they wish to attempt to change Local Plan policy during the forthcoming review process. It is to be hoped, however, that councillors will remain mindful of the fact that they are elected representatives of Midlothian residents.
We are lucky to be able to enjoy some beautiful and largely unspoiled landscape within Midlothian. I am quite sure that the overwhelming majority of residents would wish to ensure that policies designed to protect that landscape are maintained.
Howgate, by Penicuik
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