As many of you will have heard, yesterday afternoon (strangely coinciding with the opening of the Commonwealth Games which naturally the media and press will be focused on for the next few weeks) Dersalloch Windfarm – approx 2km East of Straiton, was approved directly by Scottish energy Minister, Fergus Ewing. The article regarding this decision can be viewed here.
After a 7 year battle which amassed close to 5000 objections (including objections from the Planning Authority – South Ayrshire Council), this has come as a particular blow, not only to the community of Straiton who are threatened by 5 developments all within a few kilometers of the village itself, but also the East Ayrshire communities of Dalmellington and beyond who have been striving so passionately to protect their programme of regeneration and tourism.
Be assured there will be questions asked and updates to follow – SSfS were repeatedly informed that this application would be going to Public Local Inquiry (PLI), at which point it would be given a full and proper review taking account of post 2005 changes in planning and landscape policy, cumulative impact, and the application itself in terms of access and location of turbines. It appears however, as can be seen from the Scottish Government decision letter, that there is a convenient ‘clause’ in the Electricity Act (see page 6), essentially meaning that the objections from South Ayrshire Council, did not in this case automatically trigger a PLI.
In addition to this PLI clause – the 4723 objections do not appear to have any bearing on the decision. It might be pertinent at this point to roll the clock back 18 months to a point where the national press was questioning the continual waiving through of windfarm applications despite 10,000 objections having been recieved directly by Scottish ministers (at that point between 2008 and 2013). A report in the Herald at the time quoted a representative for the Scottish Government saying “Scotland has open, inclusive and transparent planning processes which give the right protection to our magnificent landscapes, and which takes the views of local communities into account.” At SSfS we are struggling to reconcile yesterdays ‘under the carpet’ announcement with this ‘open inclusive and transparent’ planning process. Surely a PLI would have been the only way forward if the process was all of these things?
Whilst we gather our thoughts and get our heads together to discuss the next steps, please take some time to read the decision letter and feel free to let us know your thoughts on this issue. Be assured as soon as we have gathered a bit more info and got some more detail we will let you know.