Sector Deal - Planning Update

Scottish Onshore Wind Sector Deal Update: Planning Commitments

The time it takes for wind farms to get a planning determination is a major barrier to achieving the ambition of 20GW of onshore wind in Scotland by 2030. To address this, a key aim of the Scottish Onshore Wind Sector Deal is to reduce the time it takes to determine Section 36 applications for onshore wind projects. Success in delivering this aim will only be possible if several key commitments are delivered collectively. These relate to increasing and better utilising skills and resources, improving pre-application processes, streamlining Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (EIARs) and developing standardised templates and planning conditions for S36 consents.

It is important to note that the actions in the Sector Deal relate only to Section 36 determinations. The Sector, Government, and planning authorities will collaborate to continue to introduce efficiencies into the process of determining applications under the Town and Country Planning Act.

The Sector Deal includes 17 individual commitments that aim to achieve a reduced determination timeframe. Key planning outcomes that the Sector Deal aims to achieve include:

  • Analysing the pipeline of wind farm projects between 2023 and 2030 to understand the location, timeline, and scale of development.
  • Identifying Government agency resource gaps for processing future onshore wind project proposals.
  • Developing a recommended standard scope for Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (EIARs) and improving pre-application processes.
  • Aiming to determine Section 36 applications for new sites, and for the repowering of existing operational sites within 12 months where there is no public inquiry, or 24 months if there is a public inquiry.
  • Aiming to determine applications for the life extension of operational wind farms within five months, and other Section 36C applications within nine months where there is no public inquiry.
  • Identifying onshore wind project clusters where developers can work collaboratively to reduce the burden on Government agencies.

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The Onshore Wind Pipeline

In the Sector Deal, the onshore wind industry committed to provide an analysis of the expected pipeline of new onshore wind projects, extensions to existing projects, life extensions and re-powering projects expected between 2023 and 2030. This will enable Government and statutory consultees to plan for the resources that will be required to process applications.

Who is Involved

The analysis was commissioned by Scottish Renewbales and carried out by BVG Associates. It builds on the data contained in the RenewableUK EnergyPulse database. The database continues to be managed by BVG Associates on behalf of Scottish Renewables.

The analysis will be updated in April and October each year to bring the project database in line with the latest information available in the public domain. The latter of the two updates will involve re-engaging with developers on potential future projects, not yet in the public domain, to ensure the database is as representative of the future of onshore wind in Scotland as possible.

Work Update

  • This first analysis is complete and available to download from the Scottish Renewables website. The analysis includes when these developments are likely to be submitted for Section 36 consent or planning permission, the likely geographic distribution of development between planning authorities, and the potential MW scale of development.
  • BVGa is gathering feedback on the current model and requests for future iterations to make sure that the model is meeting the needs of stakeholders. If you would like to get in touch, please contact Stuart Whittingham at BVGA.
  • BVGa are currently delivering briefings to key stakeholders including Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Transmission Network Owners of the findings of the analysis.

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Identifying Resource Gaps for Processing Onshore Wind Projects

With information from the pipeline analysis, work can begin to identify resources needed and training required for the Scottish Government and Section 36 consultees to be able to process the expected increase in onshore wind farm applications coming through the system. This includes resources for all statutory consultees and decision-makers discharging pre-commencement planning commitments.

Who is Involved

This work is being led by Jasmine Killen, Unit Head, Onshore Renewable Electricity Policy and Electricity Networks, Scottish Government. Additional resource is intended to be funded through an agreement between the Scottish Government and the onshore wind sector.

Work Update

  • This work is due to start in the second quarter of 2024.

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Improving Environmental Impact Assessment Reports

In the Sector Deal, the onshore wind sector and government agreed to work collaboratively to develop a standard scoping approach for Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (EIARs) which would enable shorter form reports which truly focus on the likely significant effects of development. This will make it easier for consultees and other stakeholders to review and understand the environmental impacts of proposed wind farms, reducing the strain that assessing EIARs currently puts on agencies and which leads to delays in the planning process.

Who is Involved  

A Scottish Renewables Working Group has been established to create recommendations for a standardised EIAR format. The Working Group includes members from environmental consultancies, NatureScot, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Historic Environment Scotland (HES), planning and legal experts, and the onshore wind sector. Please contact Megan Amundson, Head of Onshore Wind & Consenting, Scottish Renewables with any queries.

Work Update

  • The Working Group interviewed statutory consultees in the spring of 2024 and is expected to issue recommendations by the end of June 2024.

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Creating Templates and Additional Guidance

The Sector Deal commits to creating standardised templates and guidance for various applications for onshore wind projects. This includes publishing template formats for Section 36 consents, guidance on consistent formats for public inquiry reports for Section 36 applications, standardised conditions and consultation responses and guidance on the application of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) for meeting net zero goals.

Who is Involved

The Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit is responsible for this work, with support and input from industry and statutory consultees.

Work Update

  • The Scottish Government is currently working on this commitment.

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Monitoring Project Clusters

In the Sector Deal, industry committed to better monitoring where potential wind farm clusters may appear and better coordinating the impact of multiple wind farms with regards to construction activities, habitat management, layout and design, and benefits for the community.

Who is Involved

Scottish Renewables has hired a Project Manager to undertake data analysis and enable coordination between onshore wind farm developers. 

Work Update

  • The Project Manager will join Scottish Renewables in June 2024 and commence work on this commitment. In the interim, please contact Megan Amundson, Head of Onshore Wind & Consenting, Scottish Renewables with any queries.

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Section 36 Planning Determination Timeframes

The Sector Deal aims to reduce the time it takes to determine Section 36 applications for onshore wind projects. The ambition is for Section 36 applications for new sites and repowering existing operational sites to be determined within 12 months where there is no Public Local Inquiry (PLI), and 24 months where there is a PLI. The Sector Deal also commits the Scottish Government to an ambition of determining applications for the extension of operational wind farms within 5 months and other Section 36C applications to be determined within 9 months where there is no PLI. For pre-commencement planning conditions, the aim is to discharge construction-ready projects within 6 weeks.

Who is Involved

This commitment is reliant on the above commitments being delivered successfully and developers submitting plans for consent that are based, as far as possible, on the agreed templates, scopes, and formats for projects that are buildable without delay. Starting in 2025, the Scottish Government is aiming to meet the proposed timeframes for S36 determinations.

Work Update

  • Updates are expected in the second quarter of 2024.