On 1 April 2022, planning application fees in Scotland were restructured which now caps the fees applicable for developments of up to three wind turbines at £5,000 (as opposed to a per 0.1 ha site area charge). EIA Technical Director Malcolm Sangster outlines some of the implications of the changes.
Developments of this scale fall under the NatureScot definition of ‘small scale wind energy’. These schemes have potentially less stringent environmental assessment requirements, particularly in terms of ornithology where an assessment of existing bird data may be all that is required and the application of simple mitigation (for example turbine relocation further from designated sites) may be appropriate in lieu of additional surveys.
Three turbine schemes may also fall short of the 20MW electricity generation threshold applicable to ‘Major Developments’ under planning legislation and would be classified as ‘Local Developments’
As smaller schemes, they may be able to be Screened out of the requirement to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and so should have a faster and more streamlined route through planning. There is also no statutory requirement to undertake pre-application consultation (although this is still recommended).
However, it is worth noting that Local Developments do not have access to the Scottish Ministers Planning Appeal process. Instead, applicants wishing to appeal refusal, planning conditions or non-determination can ask for a review from the Local Authority Planning Review Body. These bodies are made up of a minimum of three members of the Local Authority and have the power to uphold, revise or reverse a decision on Local Developments.
So ultimately there is a strategic decision to be made on whether applicants opt to remain <20MW or supplement their capacity with battery storage, for example, to exceed 20MW and therefore be considered a Major Development.
To find out more about how we can help you navigate your way through the planning system and maximise the value of your project, call the team on 0131 346 9100.