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Highland councillors disappointed at "lack of democracy" in onshore wind policy

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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Wind turbine "dismay."
Wind turbine "dismay."

MEMBERS of Highland Council’s economy committee have spoken out against a “lack of democracy” in the national planning process for onshore wind.

Councillors reacted strongly to the Scottish Government consultation into its draft onshore wind policy.

In their consultation response, council officers said they are “disappointed” at the lack of a coherent spatial strategy in the draft policy. The response also states that a planned doubling of wind farm output will create conflict in Highland communities.

The draft response last week went before members of the economy and infrastructure committee, who did not hold back.

Councillor Maxine Morley-Smith, who chairs the north planning committee, says she’s “dismayed” at the national planning process, accusing the Scottish Government of repeatedly overturning local, democratic decisions.

She said that since the Scottish Government allied with the Green party, it has upheld 100 per cent of appeals by onshore wind operators. Prior to that, she said, the appeal success rate was more like 50/50.

“We’re starting to feel that there’s no democracy,” she said. “We sit and debate an item for an hour or longer and listen to our communities...then we’re told by the big boys, ‘It doesn’t matter what you think.’”

Other members said the council’s response should have come to members first for debate.

Councillor Derek Louden said he would have liked a strong call for more community ownership in onshore wind.

Cllr Morley-Smith agreed and suggested an additional recommendation to the report. Officers will now prepare a paper outlining how communities can take forward local ownership schemes.

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