Council fight for cash over rejected windfarm scheme

© DC Thomson
Wind turbines in Perthshire

Perth and Kinross Council is demanding payment from developers behind a rejected windfarm scheme.

In a highly unusual move, the local authority has tabled a claim for expenses from the landowner leading the controversial Strathallan project.

Council bosses argue they shouldn’t be left out of pocket fighting a turbines plan which – they claim – has no chance of winning.

The nine-mast plan at Greenacres, between Comrie and Braco, was rejected by councillors in April and is now the subject of an appeal to the Scottish Government.

A similar, smaller plan for four turbines was thrown out by the same committee in 2009, a decision upheld on appeal.

Councillor Murray Lyle said at the time that the project leaders were attempting to “defend the indefensible”.

Green Cat Renewables, which is working on the project with landowner Bruce Walker, argued that the larger scheme was more acceptable.

“The need to develop renewable energy to fight climate change has never been greater,” said director Gavin Catto.

Now the council has submitted a claim for expenses with the Scottish Government.

Officers want Mr Walker to pay for an undisclosed amount of “unnecessary expense” brought about by the appeals process.

In a strongly-worded letter to the government’s appeals division, planning officer John Russell said: “It should have been clear from the decision on the previous appeal in respect of the same site and a similar development character that a windfarm proposal would not be permitted.

“Adding a further five turbines with a negligible reduction in turbine height of seven metres from the previously refused scheme could not alleviate all the previous reasons for refusal.”

He added: “There is no basis on which the appellant can reasonably claim to believe that they could succeed in this appeal, given the site history and the previous reasons for refusal.

“For whatever reason, the appellant has chosen to disregard the outcome of the earlier appeal, that this is not an appropriate site for windfarm development.

“As the planning position is clear, Perth and Kinross Council should not have been forced to incur unnecessary expense in participating in this appeal.”

In the last six years, local authorities throughout the UK have paid out about £12 million in planning appeal costs.

Green Cat Renewables is meantime claiming expenses against the council, claiming it failed to “properly balance the benefits of the application against the negative impacts”.

The firm also alleges the council did not determine the application in a “timely fashion”.

The Scottish Government is expected to rule on the appeal before the end of the year.