I’ve blogged before on the issue: Who decides – planners or politicians? It’s arisen again, with the press reports that over the past year 11 of 17 wind farm refusals have been overturned on appeal by the Scottish Government.*

Are consents more likely to be granted if the decision is made by politicians rather than planners?

That 65% success rate is remarkably consistent with the findings of Brodies’ “big wind” report – a 64% success rate for section 36 applications (50+MW projects) over the last five years.

The recently published DEPA Annual Review reports an average success rate for all planning appeals of 50%. Although the higher success rate for wind farms might therefore seem less favourable to councils than other development appeals, our report found that council objections to “big wind” had a reasonably high success rate, even where the councillors objected contrary to the advice of their planning officers.

It’s a complex picture. Council objections actually seem to have a higher success rate when the decision is made by the Scottish Ministers (section 36 applications), than when the decision is made by independent reporters, who are qualified planning professionals (appeals). But when the section 36 application is decided by the Ministers after a public inquiry has been held, the Ministers have almost always followed the recommendation from the reporter.

It’s also significant that the determining issue in many wind farm decisions is landscape and visual impact, on which opinions vary.

(* It’s not clear where this statistic comes from – the Scottish Government regularly update their website with statistics on wind turbine appeals. For 2017/18, this week that shows 6 appeals decided, with 3 successful – a 50% success rate; in 2016/17, 29 were decided, including 7 single turbine appeals, with 20 successful – a 67% success rate).