REVIEW OF NPPG 6: OVERVIEW OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES
1. On 1 June 2000, the Scottish Executive issued the consultation draft revision of National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) 6: Renewable Energy which set out the Scottish Executive's proposed new planning guidance on renewable energy. The draft guidance sought to reflect the importance of renewables in addressing climate change and to identify how the planning system could play a more enabling role in relation to renewable energy developments.
2. The consultation, covering an eight week period, closed on 28 July. During that time around 1200 copies of the consultation paper were distributed to: all local authorities in Scotland; a wide range of public bodies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs); and industry, business and professional interests. Further copies were distributed as requested and the document was also available on the Planning page of the Scottish Executive web-site.
3. This report represents the findings of the consultation exercise. A number of responses were received after the closing date. These responses are also included in the analysis of responses.
Over-view of consultation
4. The Executive received 108 responses to the draft revision. Responses were received from a wide range of interested parties including: amenity groups, both interest and area specific; two thirds of Scottish local authorities; natural heritage bodies; the renewables industry; solicitors, consultants and academia; and private individuals. The number of responses can be broken down into the following categories:
Industry and Business
5. Respondents were invited to submit their responses by either e-mail (37, 34%), fax (3, 3%) or by written contributions (68, 63%). The figure for e-mail responses includes those organisations which e-mailed the Executive and followed this with a hard copy of the document. A full list of respondents can be found in Annex 1.
6. The Executive has analysed all responses received and where appropriate, made amendments to the guidelines in light of the comments made. One respondent requested that their response be kept confidential. Their response does not therefore form a part of this digest of responses. Copies of all other responses are available for public inspection at the Scottish Executive Library, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh EH11 3XD. (Contact Mr Alan Gold Tel 0131 244 4552 for appointment.)
Main themes of responses
7. The overall message from the responses was of welcoming support for the Executive's policy for the promotion of renewable energy in Scotland. However, as one can imagine from such a wide range of interested parties, there were many divergent opinions on the scope for the planning system to play a more enabling role in promoting renewable energy and on the balance to be struck between the needs of renewable energy developments, conservation and the local impact of particular schemes. Of those who made comments, approximately two thirds of respondents were supportive of the general thrust of the guideline. The main source of criticism came from private individuals whose concerns appeared to be either the promotion of wind farm developments or the perceived lack of protection for locally/regionally designated sites.
8. A number of respondents considered that the draft NPPG neglected the importance of energy efficiency and conservation. While we agree that this is indeed of great importance, it is outwith the scope of this particular NPPG and we have not been able to incorporate comments on this aspect.
9. A number of key issues emerged from the comments received and these are discussed in this report:
- The change in emphasis in planning policy
- Grid constraints in the north and west of Scotland
- The scope of the guidance
- Protection of natural and built heritage
- The effects of renewable energy developments on tourism, recreation and rural development
- Clarification of aspects of energy policy
- Structure/approach of the NPPG
10. Some of the comments were in the form of drafting suggestions and factual points. Many have been incorporated into the text and require no further comment. Because of the diversity of opinion expressed, it is not possible to reflect the views of all correspondents in the revised text.
11. A number of respondents asked for definitions of terms used in the text such as "significant". While we understand why definitions are sought, planning guidance has traditionally used such terms. Decisions have to be made at local level taking account of all factors relevant to the development. Although giving definitions could in some instances provide clarity, we consider that it would often provide a constraint, allowing no flexibility for local factors. However, we have sought to clarify the text where possible.
12. Where comments are identified as relating to a particular section, the paragraph number cited is that of the draft guideline issued on 1 June.
KEY ISSUES EMERGING FROM RESPONSES
The change in emphasis in planning policy
13. The Executive expressed its wish to see the planning system play its full part in increasing the proportion of Scotland's electricity produced from renewable sources. The rationale leading to the change in emphasis in planning policy was a matter of some debate for the respondents.
14. There was a general welcoming of the change in emphasis towards renewables and the identification of climate change as an important issue. Around two thirds of respondents were in favour of the general thrust of the guideline and there was even some criticism that that the revised guideline was too similar to the 1994 version and that the Executive should be bolder in its policies in relation to renewable energy development.
15. On the other hand, concerns were expressed in strong terms, especially by private individuals and some NGOs, that the balance between the needs of renewable energy developments, conservation and the local impact of particular schemes, had been weighted too much in favour of development. Some respondents went as far as to suggest that the guideline appeared to be written by the renewable energy industry.
Executive response: In revising the NPPG, we start from the position that the debate about the need for additional use of renewable energy sources has already been held and decided and we have set planning policy in the wider context of UK energy policy.
Rate of approval for planning applications
16. In explaining our reason for believing that the guidance needed to be strengthened we had identified "failure to obtain planning permission, particularly for wind farms" as a contributory factor in limiting the expansion of renewable energy developments in Scotland (paragraph 17). It was not apparent to the Executive that there was one identifiable single factor behind this lower rate of approval. This appraisal has been shown to have some validity as respondents, in disagreeing with us, identified a number of reasons for the dismissal of applications including; renewables being seen as novel developments for either planners, developers or the public; the restrictive planning guidance; the complexity of issues around renewable energy developments; the choice of sites by developers; and the SRO scheme leading to wind energy developers seeking the windiest, and most controversial, sites.
17. There was some feeling from respondents that the analysis of refused planning applications under the SRO schemes was an inappropriate basis for changes in planning policy. The question was raised as to whether there was a basis for a real concern or the planning system was working properly in protecting the environment. Concern was also expressed that the figures quoted for the approval of planning applications as 90% included householder applications and was therefore not a reasonable comparison.
Executive response:The Executive has removed this paragraph, as readers did not find it useful. The responses to it, however, served to confirm the complexity of issues behind the handling of planning applications for renewable energy developments.
Role of development plan
18. The strong support given to renewable energy developments, in particular by using terms such as "... renewable energy projects should be permitted ..." (paragraph 19), was criticised as appearing contrary to section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 which states "Where in making any determination under the Planning Acts, regard is to be had to the development plan, the determination shall be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise". The paragraph appeared to give a set of 4 criteria, which would be considered without reference to the development plan.
19. Calls were also made for certain renewable energy developments to be considered as permitted developments.
Executive response:We acknowledge that our drafting gave the wrong impression and we have redrafted accordingly.
20. The Executive received seventeen comments on the issue of the withdrawal of the requirement under provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Notification of Applications) (Scotland) Direction 1997 for the notification to Scottish Ministers of all wind farm proposals of 10 or more turbines.
21. All but one of the comments from private individuals opposed the withdrawal of notification, considering that it was a diminution of the opportunity for objectors to make their case. The proposal was welcomed by the energy industry. Other comments recommended alternative modifications to the current Direction including: relaxing the notification requirements only when approved development plans are in place; amending the number of wind turbines which trigger notification; basing notification on capacity; and requiring the Scottish Executive instead to be kept informed of such developments.
Executive response:The main aim of these paragraphs is to restore a level playing field for wind turbines in relation to other types of development. The Executive is not convinced that the proposed amendments suggested by respondents would be helpful in this respect. We shall proceed as intended with the change.
22. The draft guideline noted that "currently there are capacity constraints in the grid to the north and west of a notional line between roughly the Clyde, Perth and Dundee" (paragraph 14). The paragraph also stated that, in advance of upgrading, the grid would have limited capacity to absorb extra output in the north of Scotland would accommodate development more easily in the central belt and the south of Scotland. This section of the guidance, including paragraphs 15 and 16, was read by a number of respondents to be seeking to presume against the development of renewables in the north and west of Scotland and thus require developments to be concentrated in the south of Scotland and the central belt. This analysis has also been expressed in a number of recent press articles.
23. This alleged presumption was supported and denounced for various reasons. Some respondents expressed concerns that a move towards development in central and southern Scotland would be to the detriment of the north of Scotland, while other respondents expressed concern that it would be to the detriment in the south of Scotland.
24. Some respondents expressed the view that the promotion of energy production near to energy need was laudable. Others were content with the promotion of renewables in the central belt and south of Scotland. This was re-iterated by comments suggesting the promotion of 2 - 3 wind farms of 150 - 200 MW capacity in the central belt.
Executive response: It was not the intention of the guideline to presume against development in the north. The Executive was seeking to take a realistic view of the effect of existing grid capacity on grid-connected developments in the north and west of Scotland. The guideline recognises this as a short-term issue which may change in the medium to long term if the transmission grid in the north and west is upgraded. To date, developers have been submitting planning applications for sites which were mainly north of the central belt. The Executive was seeking to ensure that developers proposing grid-connected projects additionally look at sites Scotland as a whole but not to the exclusion of more northerly sites. Grid capacity will clearly have no effect on proposals for smaller projects which are not to be connected to it.
25. Comments were also received from some sections of the energy industry that it was inappropriate to use possible grid constraints as a guide to planning policy.
Executive response: It was not our intention to imply that this was a matter of planning policy. It was merely background information which we considered to be relevant. To avoid misinterpretation, a much briefer statement on grid constraints is now included.
26. A number of comments were received in relation to the relevance of the updating of the 1993 grid capacity report as mentioned in paragraph 15. There were calls for the report to be completed as soon as possible and for the findings of the report to form a part of the finalised NPPG. Concerns were also expressed that the report would not provide sufficient clarity concerning constraints and that, due to changes in the Scottish electricity system and the development of new technologies over the next few years, the conclusion of the grid review is unlikely to lead to a definitive answer on grid constraints and development.
Executive response: A review of grid capacity is currently under way but is unlikely to be ready for a number of months. We have referred to its interim findings. While the final outcome of the review might influence points of detail in the NPPG, we have no reason to believe that it would alter the substance of the NPPG and we therefore consider that we should proceed with publication. As with all NPPGs, the guidelines will be monitored.
The scope of the guidance
Definition of renewable energy
27. In relation to the definition of renewable energy, a number of respondents questioned the definition used by the Scottish Executive. Some comments recommended widening the scope of the definition to include all types of renewable energy developments, eg solar energy and tidal power. Others stated concerns that the Executive was including the burning of waste as a renewable source of energy.
Executive response: We have retained the definition commonly used in energy policy documents, but we have also acknowledged the general definition used in the Utilities Act 2000.
Renewable technologies other than wind
28. The Scottish Executive recognises that "much of the new capacity....will come from onshore wind (wind farms)" (paragraph 13). A number of respondents expressed concern that the Executive was appearing to promote wind farm developments at the expense of other renewable energy technologies. Respondents were concerned about the lack of guidance on wave power, solar power and offshore wind power. Concern was also expressed that this section did not refer to the potential use of heat energy schemes.
Executive response: This statement is based on economic and technical considerations of the technologies which are the most likely to be used in the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland in the near future. The Executive recognises that such technologies as biomass may play a local role and that, although not currently commercially competitive, there will be a future role to play for technologies such as offshore wind and wave. In revising the text we have now said a little more about the position on other technologies.
Small/stand alone wind projects
29. A number of comments were received in relation to the status of small/stand alone renewable energy developments. Whilst some respondents welcomed the fact that the statement included all renewable energy developments, other respondents felt that the guideline appeared to dismiss small-scale developments. There was also a call for the Executive actively to encourage smaller scale developments and for the electricity produced to form a part of the Executive's renewable energy targets.
Executive response:There did not appear to be any difference of opinion between the Executive and respondents about the importance of small-scale schemes. However, it was evident that the statement in paragraph 6 had not come over clearly to some readers. The guidance has been re-drafted accordingly. It is not possible to re-visit whether schemes not connected to the grid can count towards achieving the target as this has already been decided as a matter of UK Government energy policy.
Output of developments
30. The draft had stated that the level of output of a development should not be a planning consideration (paragraph 20). There were divergent opinions on whether the scale of a particular scheme should be considered a planning consideration. Some respondents considered that the scale and level of output were important to allow a balance to be made with the potential environmental effects of a proposal. Others welcomed the statement that it should not be a planning consideration.
Executive response:The Executive was seeking to point out that planning authorities should not decide that a development should not be allowed because its output was below a particular level and could therefore not make a large contribution to electricity production. The comments received suggested that readers had placed different interpretations on whether we were steering them away from consideration of low or high outputs. As this point was not sufficiently clear, the section has been reworded accordingly.
Protection of natural and built heritage
The appropriate level of protection for locally/regionally designated sites
31. The energy industry welcomed the positive provision for renewables and the potential for development even within designated areas. However, contrary to this, a wide range of respondents felt that, in relation to sites/areas identified for the protection of species and habitats, the guideline placed an over emphasis on national and international designations (primarily paragraph 19). They considered that protection for local and regional designations, including green belt, should also be included. There was also a feeling that landscape character, wild land and the wider settings were not being adequately protected from development. The importance of consistency with NPPG 14: Natural Heritage was also raised.
Executive response: The Executive have widened the discussion of natural heritage issues to recognise that areas outwith internationally and nationally designated sites may be considered, but do not rank as highly as nationally and internationally designated sites.
Definitions of natural heritage
32. A number of drafting amendments were suggested to improve the description of relevant natural heritage interests. These amendments were many and varied.
Executive response: We were happy to receive helpful suggestions which we have incorporated into the drafting, eg. clarification in relation to developments in national and international sites.
Definitions of built heritage
33. A number of respondents suggested that the protection offered to built and cultural heritage interests were insufficient. A number of drafting amendments were suggested, for example: clarifying at what level of designation sites are to be protected; making reference to "cultural heritage" to include archaeological sites and monuments, historic gardens and designed landscapes.
Executive response: We have been happy to adopt suggestions in relation to the built and cultural heritage. The Executive has altered the form of words to make it clear that historic gardens and archaeological sites are included.
The effects of renewable energy developments on tourism, recreation and rural development
34. The Executive's comment that wind farms and hydro schemes have the potential to be of interest to tourists was disputed by some respondents. However, there was some limited support for the Executive's assertion that renewables are not incompatible with tourism and recreation interests.
35. In general, respondents were supportive of the comment that renewable energy developments will make a contribution to the Executive's policy to encourage rural development. However this was balanced by a number of respondents expressing concerns that the benefits of rural development should be weighed against the possible environmental costs and effects on tourism.
Executive response: It is not possible to find a statement which will be accepted by all and we see no alternative but to reflect the diversity of opinion.
Clarification of aspects of energy policy
Costs to consumer
36. Comments were made on whether it was reasonable to refer to increasing the use of renewable sources of energy "subject to the cost to consumers being acceptable" (paragraph 10).
Executive response:The statement "costs to consumers being acceptable" is enshrined in UK Government energy policy and is therefore retained as part of the context. We should emphasise that it is not an issue on which planning authorities are expected to decide and for that reason is mentioned in the context of energy policy as background information.
Programme beyond 2010
37. Some comments also touched on the Executive's commitment to renewable energy targets beyond 2010. There was a feeling from respondents that this statement needed strengthening and should receive greater prominence.
Executive response: A minority of commentators thought that the reference to 2010 implied that there would be no further targets or drive to increase the use of renewable energy after that date. The draft in fact referred to a continuation after 2010 and most respondents understood that 2010 was simply the next step. Paragraph 10 clearly stated that the intention was to increase the use of renewable energy beyond 2010 and we do not see how this could be strengthened.
Structure/approach of NPPG
38. A number of respondents criticised the fact that we referred to other relevant guidance but did not describe it in the body of NPPG6.
Executive response: We consider it preferable to refer to other NPPGs etc rather than lengthen this one by describing all relevant policies. We have added references to other relevant guidance which respondents drew to our attention.
39. Comment was received that some of the material may have more appropriately been included in the accompanying PAN.
Executive response:We consider that there was justification in this criticism and have altered the balance accordingly. Some of the detailed and relatively technical material, particularly in relation to wind farms, will be used in the forthcoming review of PAN 45.
40. Respondents were particularly critical of the 2 maps included in the draft. To an extent their usefulness and accuracy per se was queried. In particular, they were not considered useful at the quality and scale possible in an NPPG. It was also considered that the 2 maps taken together could imply a misleading over-simplification of the site selection process.
Executive response: As respondents found the maps unhelpful, we have removed them.
41. Opinion was divided amongst the respondents who commented, on the validity of defining "search areas" (paragraph 69). A number considered that they had a useful role to play but that more guidance was needed, including information on the appropriate capacity for such areas. There was also concern expressed that identification of search areas may prejudice development outwith those areas. Other respondents expressed concerns that: the use of search areas may funnel development into particular areas leading to cumulative impact problems and the search areas will be soon out dated. Comment was also received questioning the need for the particular reference to wind and that reference should be made to the National Waste Strategy when defining search area.
Executive response: While we recognise the possible shortcomings of the search area approach, we still consider that it is an option open to planning authorities. We have revised the text to make the point that the identification of search areas should not exclude developments outwith these areas where they can be accommodated in a satisfactory manner.
Annex A : List of Respondents
Aberdeen City Council
Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland
Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland
Association of Regional and Island Archaeologists
Biggart Baillie Solicitors
Border Biofuels Ltd
British Wind Energy Association
Cairncross Pay, G
Cinema Exhibitor's Association
Central Scotland Countryside Trust
City of Edinburgh Council
Coltart, K (Aberdeen)
Coltart, K (Thornhill)
Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar
Dumfries and Galloway Council
Duncan Miller, J
Dundee City Council
East Ayrshire Council
East Dunbartonshire Council
East Lothian Council
East Renfrewshire Council
First Renewables Ltd
Friends of the Earth (Scotland)
Friends of the Earth (Tayside)
Garbhaig Hydro Power Company Ltd.
The Garden History Society
Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Structure Plan Joint Committee
Glasgow City Council
Highland Light and Power
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Institute of Chartered Foresters
Keep Galloway Beautiful
Lawrence Environmental Consultants
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Interim Committee.
Lowland Planning Associates
Mining + Environment Group Ayrshire
Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Murray Flutter, Maj. A
National Wind Power
Nicol, Harvey and Pierce
North Ayrshire Council
North Lanarkshire Council
North of Scotland Water Authority
Raemaekers, Jeremy ECA/Heriot Watt University
Ramblers' Association Scotland
Renewable Development Company Ltd
Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
Royal Town Planning Institute
Russell T J
Russell T S
Scottish and Southern Energy plc
Scottish Borders Council
Scottish Canoe Association
Scottish Coastal Forum
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Scottish Landowners' Federation
Scottish Natural Heritage
Scottish Renewables Forum
Scottish Wild Land Group
Smith A J
South Ayrshire Council
South Lanarkshire Council
Vedebrand, J and Tomas, C
West Dunbartonshire Council
West of Scotland Water
Woodland Trust Scotland
World Wildlife Fund
Wright, Johnston and Mackenzie