SNP - Tom Wills

Equal planning rights demand

Sustainable Shetland vice chairman James Mackenzie

SUSTAINABLE Shetland’s James Mackenzie spent the weekend in Glasgow speaking about his experiences of “undemocratic” planning.

The vice-chair of the anti-Viking Wind Farm campaign group was invited to talk at the Planning Democracy’s People’s Perspective event at the city’s Trades Hall on Saturday.

Mackenzie opened up about Sustainable Shetland’s opposition to the 103-turbine proposal, which has divided opinion over the last number of years.

He told more than 100 delegates from across Scotland about the “flaws” he perceived in the way planning works.

“Planning Democracy approached me because they wanted somebody from Sustainable Shetland to speak about our experience with the planning system,” he said.

“It’s really about looking back over the whole planning process that the Viking wind farm went through.

“While developers have the right to appeal against a planning decision if it goes against them, the only right we had was go to judicial review, which is very limiting and really expensive.”

Sustainable Shetland’s legal challenge against Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing’s 2012 decision to give Viking planning consent was ultimately rejected at the Supreme Court in February.

Mackenzie feels that what “purported to be consultation” in the Viking wind farm development so far has been no more than a “charade”.

He concluded: “The planning system in Scotland should absolutely be a lot more transparent. Even right up to ministerial level, I think it’s just been handled so badly and so undemocratically. It’s a real loss on democracy.”

The wind farm proposals require the final sanctioning of a subsea interconnector cable linking Shetland to the Scottish mainland’s power grid.

The sold-out Planning Democracy conference sought to explore an “alternative viewpoint” towards planning in Scotland.

Planning Democracy Scotland chair Clare Symonds commented: “There is a growing recognition that the planning system in Scotland is heavily skewed in favour of developers, who have the right to challenge a decision that goes against them – in contrast to local people and environmentalists who are denied that opportunity.

“This conference explored options for a more equitable planning system, including the idea of equal rights of appeal to create a level playing field that allows communities the same rights as developers.”

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