Union urges planners to be more consistent

Planning officials need to adopt a more consistent and responsible approach to renewable energy if Scotland is to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets.

That was the message from NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller at a recent wind energy event in Aberdeenshire. He said member experience of the planning process had been mixed and the inconsistency with which projects were approved or rejected would only drive frustration.

“For many, getting to the planning stage requires a leap of faith. If we are genuinely serious about generating our own energy from renewable sources, a presumption in favour of projects at the planning stage would be a big step forward.”

Mr Miller welcomed the extra £2.4m of funding for the Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) loan fund (see right). The money is designed to help groups through the start-up process and will cover 90% of costs in getting to the planning stage.

“The risk is low, as loans from the fund will only be paid back by successful ventures. This has the potential to speed up the development of the renewables sector in Scotland and I would urge any farmer considering venturing into a renewables project to look at what CARES can do to help them.”

What is your experience of the planning system? Tell us here and click on “Biofuels and renewable energy”.

Cares Loan fund

* Unveiled on 15 February by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead

* Loans up to £150,000 to cover up to 90% of pre-planning costs (eg, environmental assessments, river flow analysis, grid connection deposit)

* Eligibility requires a “minimum community benefit from the project”

* Loan repayable at commercial rate if the scheme gains planning permission

* Loan written off if the application fails

* Open to Scottish farmers and land managers from April

* To access the fund, land managers should form partnerships with local communities to share revenue

* For further details click here

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