Council blocks bid to give public more say amid surge in power line plans

Major energy infrastructure applications in the Highlands have proven controversial.

Council blocks bid to give public more say amid surge in power line plans SSEN

Highland Council leaders have blocked an attempt to open up the planning system to allow more public input into controversial proposals from energy companies for pylons, lines and turbines.

The bid was made by a councillor representing Beauly and the surrounding area – at the heart of the north of Scotland’s electricity transmission line network.

A motion for full council consideration submitted by Helen Crawford has been declared “not competent” by the council’s convener Bill Lobban.

Councillor Crawford wants a review of the existing consultation and planning process to secure communities a greater say in energy generation, storage and transmission amid a growing influx of planning applications.

She said she has cross-party support along with backing from a number of community councils and individual residents.

“I am disappointed my motion was blocked from the agenda for the full council meeting next week,” councillor Crawford said.

“Our communities are looking for us to take action now.

“In many parts of the Highlands we’re seeing a significant number of major renewable energy development applications. It’s crucial the views of communities who are going to be directly impacted are fully taken on board.

“They know the land, they live there and they know how their community functions.”

She added: “Given the avalanche of applications, we must ensure community views are genuinely represented in the planning process and that developers engage meaningfully when concerns are raised.”

Developers argue that the renewable projects and transmission line upgrades are essential to deliver net zero targets set by both the UK and Scottish governments.

The convener, cllr Lobban, said: “Councillor Crawford’s motion was deemed not competent by me. It’s the responsibility of individual members to ensure that their motion is likely to be competent.

“Clearly, in this particular case – despite advice to the contrary – councillor Crawford decided to present a motion that did not meet the required criteria.”

A spokeswoman for the council added: “In line with standing order 12, the proposed motion was determined not to be competent.”

Cllr Crawford said she was awaiting an explanation as to why her motion was “not competent”, adding that she would submit a fresh motion to a full council meeting in September.

A spokeswoman for the Communities B4 Power Companies campaign group said: “It’s a democratic outrage that the motion hasn’t been accepted.

“We sincerely hope the decision hasn’t been influenced by the general election as all councillors need to get on board with protecting the people who vote for them as have affected community councils.”

Nine community councils have spoken out in support of her motion, demanding “badly needed transparency, clarity and objectivity to the flawed planning process”, in which they “find themselves submerged”.

Community councils offering support to the motion are Kilmorack, Strathglass, Kirkhill and Bunchrew, Kiltarlity, Halkirk, Melvich, Thurso, West Caithness, and Strathy and Armadale.

Kirkhill and Bunchrew Community Council chairman Cameron Kemp said: “My time is overwhelmingly taken up trying to understand the complex proposals and submissions we receive, attending non-stop consultations and trying to keep track of which proposal is where in the planning process.

“I became a community councillor to help improve the wellbeing of our community, not to spend my life trying to firefight these major energy infrastructure applications.”

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