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May 8, 2013

Planning reviews impact on the ground

The Scottish Government has just published two important planning documents for consultation – a draft statement of the big ideas that are likely to shape the national planning framework and a draft review of Scottish Planning Policy.  How do these national documents relate to the local? Andy Wightman’s blog connects the two with one word – huts.  Of more general concern is the fact that community benefit is still not a material consideration in the planning process.  This is why communities like Denholm and Ancrum continue to miss out.



The Standhill wind turbine controversy has taken a new twist. The application for a 74m high turbine by local farmer Jim Shanks was refused by councillors last month. But he has passed on the proposals to Community Energy Scotland (CES), who are to gauge public support in Denholm and Ancrum before deciding whether to appeal the council’s decision.

The move would see Denholm and Ancrum communities taking ownership of the turbine and reaping any financial benefits from that, while paying Mr Shanks an agreed fee of rent which would be determined by CES. Mr Shanks said: “Out of respect of those who have supported me through what have been at times, very difficult circumstances, I have offered the appeal to the community of Denholm and Ancrum.  I’ve contacted Community Energy Scotland (CES) and informed them of my decision and they would manage the appeal. The benefits to householders in the Denholm area are considerable over the next 25 years.”

However, any appeal would only go ahead should there be support from the local communities. A public meeting has been arranged by Denholm Community Council where representatives from CES will be in attendance to give a presentation on how the scheme would work. Community council chairman Sid Huddart said: “The timescale for this is quite short, but this is too big an issue to be decided by just a few people so we’re giving the people of Denholm the opportunity to see if this is something they would like to see happen.”

The application was refused by members of the planning committee on the grounds that it would have an adverse impact on the landscape, contravened policy and was rejected by the Ministry of Defence. It attracted 300 objections with 90 indications of support. One of the groups strongly opposed to the plans was the Minto Hills Conservation Group. 

Chairman David Walmsley told the Hawick News this week: “My reaction to this is one of great reservation. It was said by officials and councillors at the planning meeting that it was too large and in the wrong place and that is exactly our thoughts.” 

He added: “It doesn’t really matter to us who takes it to appeal. If they want the community involved then fine but the appeal by the Scottish Government Reporter won’t take that into account because community benefit is not a material planning consideration and is ruled out.”