Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Supplementary Guidance on Renewable Energy

Presentation by Mr Charles Johnston, Principal Officer – Plans & Research,


The Chairman welcomed Mr C Johnston Principal Officer – Plans and Research, who was present at the meeting to give a presentation on Draft Supplementary Guidance - Renewable Energy 2016. Mr Johnston explained that Scottish Borders Council’s Local Development Plan (LDP) was adopted on 12 May 2016 and one of the recommendations was the requirement to produce Supplementary Guidance (SG) on renewable energy.  A draft SG had been produced which provided planning guidance on a wide range of renewable technologies. Scottish Borders Council (SBC) had approved the SG on 22 December 2016; a 12 week public consultation then began which would end 17 on April 2017. 


4.2       Mr Johnston advised that the role of SBC was to support the principals of sustainable development and renewable energy, within appropriate locations. Mr Johnston then referred to a map which detailed windfarm applications within the Scottish Borders and showed the status e.g. Approved, Pending Decision, Refused or Withdrawn. He explained that SG policy promoted sustainable development, whilst protecting natural and cultural assets.  The Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) reaffirmed support for renewable energy and the requirement to attain national energy targets; the target of which was that by 2020, 100% of electricity should be produced by renewable energy.   However, a balance had to be sought, as it was not about development at any cost.  SBC’s planning system was tasked with facilitating positive change while maintaining and enhancing the distinctive landscape character. 


4.3       Mr Johnston further advised that the main policy within the Local Development Plan for windfarm developments was that if the development was judged to have an unacceptable, significant adverse impact, consent would only be granted if it was considered wider economic and environmental benefits outweighed any potential damage.   Mr Johnston discussed the Spatial Framework which grouped areas into three.  Group 1 identified areas where windfarms would not be acceptable e.g. National Parks and National Scenic Areas.  Group 2 showed Areas of Significant Protection e.g. areas where windfarms might be appropriate in some circumstances if any significant effects could be overcome by siting, design or other mitigation.  Group 3 highlighted areas with potential for windfarm development which would likely be acceptable subject to detailed consideration against policy criteria.   Mr Johnston went on to explain that any developer interested in building windfarms would consider the LDP, Spatial Framework and Landscape Capacity prior to submitting a request.  However, some developers still submitted applications significantly at odds with the Landscape Capacity study. Mr Johnston concluded by stating that turbines were becoming higher for example, 150m turbines, which meant that there was a requirement for appropriate lighting.  In response to a question he explained that applications for expansion of existing windfarm sites or replacement with higher turbines would be considered as new proposals and were dealt with accordingly. 


4.4       There followed a discussion when a number of issues were raised.  It was highlighted that there appeared to be a conflict between text and maps with regard to the interpretation of what were considered to be a ‘turbine landscape’ as opposed to, for example ‘a landscape with turbines’. Mr Johnstone was also asked about the changes to categorisation of turbine typologies which had been changed from 3no to 5no which allowed more accurate and definitive text to be applied.  Specific reasoning as to why the Landscape Study indicated the preferred typology types stated were largely outwith Mr Johnston’s remit as these were proposed by the Landscape Consultant and Development Management officers.  Mr Johnston was also asked to comment on the public impression that SBC were imposing far less restrictions on developments than before.  Mr Johnston explained that SBC were dictated to by Scottish Government and were trying to maintain a balance between the government’s promotion of windfarm developments and local landscape issues.  SBC had refused a number of applications but the government had overturned their decisions.    With reference to a question about decommissioning of sites, Mr Johnston advised that the lifespan of the majority of wind turbines was 25 years and then they would be removed unless applications were submitted for repowering on the sites.  However, he was unsure if when decommissioning, the concrete bases on which they were positioned, would also be removed as no applications had yet been submitted to test this issue.   Mr Johnston concluded that all responses to the public consultation would be considered and there would be an update on the findings referred to Members in summer 2017.  Councillor Smith, Chairman of the Planning and Building Standards Committee, added that if anyone wished to discuss their concerns further he was available out with the meeting. 








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