Public engagement for sub-20MW wind turbine proposals – good practice guidance

Good practice guidance for local authorities, developers, landowners, community representatives and other relevant stakeholders on public engagement for wind turbine proposals; principally below 20MW generating capacity.

2. Considerations and Matters Arising

In considering the scope for any new guidance, it is important to have a clear understanding of the issues, existing procedures and required engagement processes. The following section provides detail on the requirements for various types of application.

2.1 Existing Planning Legislation

2.1.1 The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended) and associated secondary legislation provide opportunities for people to get involved in the planning system.

2.2 Development Plans & Guidance

2.2.1 Planning authorities are required to prepare development plans to comply with Scottish Planning Policy, the National Planning Framework and Circular 6/2013: Development Planning [3] . Development plans should contain planning policies and spatial frameworks to support the delivery of wind energy development and to steer wind turbine developments to appropriate locations in their respective areas. Authorities can also produce supplementary guidance to expand upon particular policy areas and to provide more detailed guidance on development management. Alternatively, this can be presented as non-statutory guidance.

2.2.2 Development plans are expected to be reviewed and updated within 5 year time cycles. This allows multiple opportunities for stakeholders with an interest in wind energy development to engage in the various stages of development plan preparation. Stakeholders are encouraged to comment on planning policies including spatial frameworks and associated supplementary guidance before plans are adopted. Authorities are also encouraged to be transparent and to provide opportunities for stakeholders to comment when preparing any non-statutory guidance.

2.3 Energy Consents and applications for Major / National developments

2.3.1 Statutory pre-application consultation applies to planning applications for major development ( e.g. electricity generating stations of 20 Megawatts ( MW) or more) and for national development proposals [4] ; with guidance provided in Planning Advice Note 3/2010 [5] . Applications covered under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 are also subject to pre-application consultation as a matter of good practice.

2.3.2 For major developments the application process consists of:

  • consultation with community councils in whose area the proposal is situated or with neighbouring community councils;
  • providing copies of the Proposal Of Application Notice ( PAN) to such community councils;
  • a public event where members of the public may make comments to the prospective applicant with a local newspaper notice publicising the event;
  • a public notice indicating both where information on the proposals can be obtained and written comments can be sent to the prospective applicant;
  • whatever further consultation requirements are placed on the prospective applicant by the planning authority; and
  • prepare and submit a pre-application consultation report with any subsequent application outlining the approaches taken in engagement.

2.3.3 Good practice guidance [6] has been produced for Energy Consent applications which includes details on public engagement and as a matter of good practice for applications for consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 (electricity generation stations of 50 MW or more). The Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit webpage also provides further information on individual applications covered under Section 36.

2.3.4 Given that provisions for larger-scale planning applications are already in place, this guidance focuses on good practice in engagement for proposals for wind energy developments below the 20 MW generating capacity threshold i.e. those classed as local developments in the development hierarchy, but above permitted development thresholds [7] .

2.4 Environmental Impact Assessment Applications

2.4.1 The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 set out the publicity requirements for those wind turbine proposals that require an environmental impact assessment ( EIA). This includes specific provisions for neighbour notification and wider publicity following the submission of an Environmental Statement. On receipt of the Environmental Statement, the planning authority must advertise the statement in the local press and the Edinburgh Gazette and the applicant must pay the cost of the advertisement. The notices published must:-

a) state that a copy of the statement and of any other documents submitted with the application will be available for inspection by the public and give the address (and where available website address) where the documents can be inspected free of charge;

b) give an address in the locality where copies of the statement may be obtained; state that a copy may be obtained there while stocks last; and, state the amount of any charge to be made for supplying a copy; and

c) state the date by which any written representations about the application should be made to the planning authority. This date must be at least 4 weeks after the date on which the notice was published; and

d) note that the possible decisions relating to a planning application are to;

  • Grant planning permission without conditions
  • Grant planning permission with conditions
  • Refuse permission

2.4.2 Additional publicity and notification requirements apply where an EIA is submitted under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2011. Further guidance is provided on in Circular 3/2011 [8] .

2.5 Publicity for Applications for Planning Permission

2.5.1 Where a planning application is for a local development (and no EIA is required) then it requires:

  • neighbour notification to premises on land which, or part of which, is within 20 metres of the boundary of the land to be developed;
  • a notice in a public newspaper where either the site owners have not been notified, neighbouring land has no premises to which neighbour notification can be sent, the development is of a type listed as likely to have effects on amenity ( e.g. structures over 20 metres in height, the development is contrary to the development plan);
  • inclusion on a weekly list of new applications sent to all community councils in the planning authority area and available in the planning office and local libraries;
  • inclusion on the list of applications which is made available online and at the planning authority's principal office and public libraries (in practice, planning authorities publish their weekly lists of new applications on their web sites).

2.5.2 Communities should engage with different organisations at different points in the process. When development plans and supplementary guidance are being prepared, community engagement will be mainly with the planning authority. During pre-application consultation, the engagement will be between the community and the prospective applicant. When an application for planning permission has been submitted, the focus for engagement is between communities and the planning authority.

2.5.3 The following sections set out existing examples of consultation and recent research on engagement.


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