Wind farm developers launch legal challenge against reporter’s decision which ‘mocks’ Scottish planning system
Developers whose plans for a six-turbine wind farm near Glen Affric were refused have launched a legal challenge in the Court of Session against the Scottish governmentplanning reporter’s decision.
German developers wpd claim “unverified online submissions to the planning portal have undoubtedly influenced the decision making process” The Herald reports.
The firm had appealed to the Scottish government following Highland Council’s continuous delays in considering their application and expressed shock at Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) reporter Richard Hickman’s dismissal of their appeal.
It suggested the decision made “severe impacts on the integrity of the Scottish planning system”.
The project, which would have seen turbines with 400ft blades in the vicinity of the glen, was opposed by the wild land charity the John Muir Trust as well as the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, two local councils and more than 1,000 members of the public.
Kylan Donaldson, project manager for wpd in Scotland, said the appeal had been dismissed against all technical consultees’ recommendations.
She added that the head of planning at Highland Council had recommended the plans be approved.
Furthermore, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had said the plans could be “accommodated” because ““the likely effects on the appreciation of the special qualities of the Glen Affric National Scenic Area (NSA) would not be significant”.
Nor would it affect the Glen Affric to Strathconon special protection area (SPA) – a designated area of international significance because of its golden eagle population.
She said: “Mr Hickman, a self-employed reporter at the DPEA, overturned the professional assessments and recommendation by the Highland Council’s planning department, the Scottish government’s environmental agency SNH and the reports of over a dozen specialists who have worked on the planning application for almost two years” she said.
“The DPEA is struggling to explain how a reporter who has no professional qualification as a landscape architect or traffic and transport specialist can mock the entire Scottish planning system.
“Whether one supports wind energy or not – the DPEA’S Reporter has issued a purely arbitrary decision which has revealed to members of the public, local groups with an interest in the project as well as the developer that the planning system is wide open to bias.”
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The reporter appointed by Scottish Minsters set out his reasons concerning this case in his decision notice.
“As an appeal against the decision has been made to the Court of Session, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”