Planning application support for Bettyhill Wind Farm – phase 2

Client Name
Eden Renewables
Location
Scotland
  • Environmental & social impact assessment

Challenge

We supported Eden Renewables in the planning application for a proposed 10-turbine wind farm development at Bettyhill Common Grazings on the Skelpick Estate.

The scheme will have a capacity of up to 49.9 MW and will provide enough electricity each year to power nearly 45,000 households. In addition to making a positive contribution towards the Scottish government’s renewable energy targets, the development will also deliver significant positive biodiversity enhancement and socio-economic benefits to the local economy.

Solution


In conjunction with the developer’s landscape architect, SLR was responsible for leading the layout and design of the wind farm. This included undertaking extensive pre-application consultation with the Highland Council and other consultees to fully understand the constraints and opportunities of the site, and working collaboratively with them to develop a layout and design which positively responded to these. Where issues were raised post-submission, further detailed consultation with consultees was undertaken to address their concerns.

Impact


The Highland Council officers praised the strong level of engagement that had taken place with them and other consultees to address their potential concerns to the project. This resulted in all objections to the project from statutory, and non-consultees, being removed, and the planning officer recommending the application for approval. The strength of community support was also evidenced by the number of letters of support that were made. At the planning committee, the project was unanimously approved. Despite the extensive pre-application consultation undertaken, during the determination period some consultees requested further information. This was primarily due to the nomination post submission of the Flow Country candidate World Heritage Site (WHS) adjacent to the application site, as well as the new biodiversity enhancement requirements introduced by National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). In response:

  • SLR undertook an assessment of the impact of the proposals on the candidate Flow Country WHS. As one of the first such projects needing to undertake this assessment, consultation was undertaken with the Highland Council to carefully agree the methodology for the assessment. The assessment concluded that overall there would be a positive impact on the WHS, a conclusion supported by the Highland Council and consultees.
  • SLR worked with the developer and consultees to reduce the volume of peat that would be disturbed through further refinement of the site layout and design. This included attending site visits with NatureScot and design workshops with SEPA.
  • Additional peatland restoration and habitat management proposals were developed. NatureScot, SEPA and the Highland Council confirmed that the revised proposals fulfilled the new biodiversity enhancement requirements introduced by NPF4.

Overall, on the basis of information submitted the Highland Council concluded that the environmental impacts of the proposed development were acceptable.