The Scottish Ministers recently refused section 36 consent for the Keirs Hill wind farm.
Of the 7 section 36 applications they’ve decided so far in 2016, 5 have been granted – a 71% success rate.
That’s an increase from 50% success in 2015, in which 12 applications were decided.
In contrast, only 32% of planning permission appeals for 3+ turbines were successful in 2015/ 16.
You might think that’s because the Reporters who decide appeals aren’t as favourable towards wind farm developments. However, where a section 36 development goes to public inquiry, it is a Reporter who prepares the report to the Ministers.
Of the 11 section 36 applications considered by Reporters in 2015-16, there was only one – Allt Duine – where the Ministers’ decision was contrary to Reporter’s recommendation. In that case the Reporter had recommended approval, so Reporters actually favoured more section 36 applications than the Ministers.
So Reporters appear to be supporting more of the large wind farms (section 36), than the smaller ones (planning permission appeals). Is that because section 36 applications are better prepared?
Public inquiries are a much more common feature than in planning permission appeals, because an inquiry must be held if the planning authority objects to a section 36 application. In 2015/16, 9 out of 19 applications went to public inquiry.
The lack of a public inquiry is not necessarily an indication that consent will be granted. Although both the non-inquiry applications decided in 2016 were granted, in 2015 only 5 of 8 were granted.
How successful were the planning authority objections which triggered the inquiries? In 2016, 60% (3 out of 5); but in 2015 only 25% (1 of 4, but if the Ministers had followed the Reporter’s recommendation in the Allt Duine case, the success rate would have been 50%).