Anti windfarm campaigners have been encouraged by reporting of an appeal decision in relation to Barrel Law Windfarm in the Scottish Borders.
As reported in one Sunday newspaper, it was suggested that the appeal had failed due to green energy targets having been met. However, it misrepresents the comments of the Reporter who considered the appeal.
The Reporter identified the main issues in the appeal as landscape and visual impact including cumulative effects, the impact on residential amenity, the effect on the deadwater fell air traffic control radar and the contribution to renewable energy targets. Under the heading "Benefits of the Proposal", the Reporter set out the Scottish Government targets for renewable electricity generation being the equivalent of 100% of gross annual consumption by 2020 with an interim target of 50% by 2015. The Reporter then explored the latest published information regarding the contribution which renewables is making to the target. He identified that the 100% target roughly equates to 16 gigawatts of installed capacity, including onshore wind and marine. He found that the Barrel Law Windfarm would contribute 0.15% to the target, which he acknowledged to be a small but useful contribution. However, he also identified that between installed capacity and schemes under construction or consented there was 13.3 gigawatts of capacity leaving only an additional 2.7 gigawatts to meet the 2020 100% target. Against that 2.7 gigawatts there were 7.2 gigawatts in the planning system.
In his decision letter, the Reporter acknowledged that the target did not represent a cap and that any additional capacity will contribute to a reduction in the UK's carbon emissions. However, given the rate of progress towards the target, he stated that the weight that should be given to Barrel Law's contribution was not as great as it would have been had the shortfall been larger, or if there were fewer schemes in the planning system.
In coming to his conclusion on the appeal, the Reporter found that the scale of the turbines would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the local landscape. He also found that it would have unacceptable impacts on aviation. Local plan policy D4 allows for approval, if the decision-maker is satisfied that the contribution to wider economic and environmental benefits outweighs the potential damage to the environment, or to tourism and recreation. The Reporter felt that the contribution to the renewable energy targets and carbon emissions reduction was insufficient to outweigh the negative impacts. He therefore dismissed the appeal.
Reporting of the decision may have given some people the impression that it represented a turning point. This overstates its significance. It is, however, likely that going forward, the weight to be attached that the contribution schemes make towards renewables targets in the planning balance will diminish.