New way to view onshore wind activity across the Highlands
The Highland Council has launched a new interactive map on its website showing the location of windfarms and wind turbines in the Highlands. The user friendly Windfarm Activity Map covers all scales of wind energy development and provides detailed information such as turbine sizes and planning reference numbers to make it easy for people to get further information.
Chair of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Thomas Prag said: ‘It has always been a bit of a challenge to keep track of windfarm development for everyone involved. This new mapping tool is a step up from what we had previously provided and gives very clear and comprehensive information at the click of a mouse. I am sure people will find having such an interactive and visual representation of where we currently are in terms of wind farm activity very useful. At the moment just the constructed and under construction schemes are shown on the map but plans are to get all approved schemes, refused schemes and those in the planning process added.”
Just shortly after the map was launched, Councillor Prag and his colleagues on the Council’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss progress in work to review the Council’s Onshore Wind Energy Supplementary Guidance which is used in the consideration of planning applications for wind energy developments.
New national planning policies published in June 2014 changed how Councils are to plan for Onshore Wind Energy development so Highland Council is currently in the process of reviewing their planning policies and guidance.
During the Committee Members were advised that an initial stage of consultation on key issues has been completed and agreed that the Consultation Paper giving the Council’s initial ideas for revisions to the guidance go out for public consultation between March and May with the intention that the formal draft document comes back to the Committee in August this year.
The map can be viewed by visiting the Council’s website www.highland.gov.uk/windmap
The guidance will identify those areas that are likely to be most approriate for onshore wind farms as a guide for developers and communities. This will take into account that other areas need to be protected due to their importance, for example for nature conservation or landscape. The Consultation Paper sets out further steps the Council proposes to take account of local considerations and cumulative impact before identifying the areas of Highland with the greatest potential for wind energy development.
Whilst the public consultation is underway, officers will be commenting on SNH’s draft soils and peat mapping (available now on SNH’s website) and on SNH’s forthcoming Descriptions and Guidance for the Wild Land Areas.
Also, Members will be invited to take part in a workshop looking at the various options put forward for revising the Guidance.
Committee Chairman, Councillor Thomas Prag, said: “As a council we are supportive of the development of a wide range of renewable energy types including wave, tidal, hydro, onshore and offshore wind but we have to find a balance and be able to make informed decisions using robust guidance. Through the Guidance we need to reaffirm our commitment to identify means whereby communities can participate in and benefit from the development of renewable energy across the Highlands. This is an important piece of work so I’d encourage people to take part as the comments we receive will help to complete the full draft Supplementary Guidance for consultation later in the year.”
When the Council’s consultation on onshore wind is launched in March it will be promoted, including on the Council’s website, and details provided of how to submit comments.