Chapter 3: A Strategic Approach to Development
In our draft OWPS, the Scottish Government considered options for a more strategic approach to wind energy developments, in the context of previous proposals for national or regional spatial plans and targets.
Having confirmed that we do not intend to revisit these approaches - a position which still holds - our consultation set out two further options.
Locally co-ordinated approach - this approach involves fostering more co-ordination where possible amongst commercial developers.
Business as usual - we continue with the established systems which are currently in place for processing and determining applications above 50 MW, working with developers and other stakeholders to identify and pursue opportunities for co-ordination on a case by case basis.
44. Our draft OWPS considered potential options for a strategic approach to wind farm site development, including the identification of new sites where the greatest capacity could be achieved within appropriate landscapes.
45. It is natural for developers - with commercial interests to protect - to work in isolation from their competitors. However, there may be scope under certain circumstances for developers to come together and to discuss, with the Scottish Government, planning authorities and communities, options to consider how new wind farm or repowering proposals might make an improved and more efficient use of land and supporting infrastructure.
46. A coordinated approach of this kind could have the potential to reduce the cost of delivering individual generation projects. It could also provide other benefits, such as more efficient use of existing grid assets, identification of energy storage options, more widely coordinated habitat restoration and the potential to discuss with communities broader impacts and outcomes for an area.
47. This could take the form of a separate process at the pre-scoping or pre-application stage. Developers interested in adjacent or proximate sites within a region would be encouraged to work together to consider the 'best' use of land and energy networks - i.e. outcomes which are better designed in landscape terms, and are more strategically efficient and cost-effective. The goal would be to minimise impacts on the environment and residents, while obtaining the greatest amount of renewable generation.
48. Our Land Use Strategy already supports such an approach, through its emphasis on balancing competing interests; indeed, it goes further in its encouragement for all land users to work together to ensure multiple benefits, meaning that one developer or other stakeholder should not work in isolation from others.
49. We believe that the current system, as described in our consultation as "business as usual", continues to represent an effective and efficient process for considering applications for developments in excess of 50 MW. However, we still expect developers of such projects to make every effort to find opportunities to collaborate, and to reduce potential local landscape impacts.
50. That means a renewed focus on communicating effectively with each other, and with affected and relevant communities. We remain happy to assist and broker this kind of collaborative approach on a case-by-case basis, but will be prepared to examine further measures to bring forward greater collaboration if necessary.
51. On a separate but related front, meanwhile, our proposals for planning reform move the current strategic planning focus - on preparing the statutory development plan - towards local authorities working together to provide regional input to an enhanced National Planning Framework, and to more active, co-ordinated infrastructure investment and development delivery at this scale.
52. Our aim is to allow and encourage all areas of Scotland to undertake strategic planning activities where they will add value - and in a way which is sufficiently flexible to allow wider regional scale partnerships to respond to, and build on, local circumstances and relationships. Further detail on changes to strategic development planning are set out in the Planning Bill.
53. Many stakeholders believe that the existing system has worked effectively thus far, and can continue to deliver projects that will help the Scottish Government achieve our renewable energy targets. Proposals to strengthen the status of the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy will build on this, by ensuring greater clarity and consistency in development plan policies.
54. The Scottish Government agrees that cross-boundary collaborative working at this scale should continue to be pursued, as it is now, wherever possible, and will continue to encourage and support such partnerships between developers and other key stakeholders.