Meeting reveals wind farm inquiry cost council more than £150,000

Clash Gour and Rothes 3 were both rejected by Moray Council before being overturned by the Scottish Government.

Meeting reveals wind farm inquiry cost council more than £150,000 LDRS

A public inquiry into two wind farm applications cost Moray Council more than £150,000.

Clash Gour, near Forres, and Rothes 3, on Speyside, were both rejected by the local authority, but the decisions were overturned by the Scottish Government following the inquiry.

The figure was revealed at a meeting of the planning and regulatory services committee on Tuesday after independent councillor for Speyside Glenlivet, Derek Ross, asked a question on the costs.

There was a “collective intake of breath” by those in the chamber as legal services manager Aileen Scott revealed the figure.

But the £150,000 only relates to external expenditure and does not include staff time.

The inquiry was also held in Aviemore, outside the council area – increasing costs.

Mrs Scott said: “It was a complex inquiry.

“There were two sites, we had two landscape consultants, we had external advisers and the inquiry was held in Aviemore as it was in Covid.

“So that doesn’t take account of staff time, and there was considerable input.

“It was a significant cost.”

She added while there was a lot of support for the landscape arguments put forward by the council, climate change and the need for renewables tipped the scales the other way.

The local authority will now have to consider the impact on resources when similar applications come forward in the future.

Mr Ross said: “It’s an affront to local democracy.

“If we’re not going to put our representations in because it’s actually going to cost too much, I think that’s very sad.

“I see very little point in employing planning officers and electing councillors if our decision making is overturned every time.”

As the council is the only consultee on section 36 onshore electrical generation applications, if they object it automatically triggers a public inquiry.

Mrs Scott felt that was “unfair” and representations could be made in a different way.

She said: “We’ll now have to look at the impact of resources when an application like that comes up again”

“We can’t compromise our principles, but we will have to look at how those are represented, and it’s a discussion we need to have.”

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