Monday, 16 September 2013

A letter (11 Sep 2013)sent by the SNP Group leader Donald Manford to Julian Chafner of the Ministry of Defence questioning the reasoning given by the MOD with regards to objections to the turbines at North Uist. Should there be an enquiry as to why the safeguarding area is extended here and only just recently?

Dear Mr Chafner


I write to advise you of the widespread local concern in regard to the response of your organisation to the above community turbine application.

Having carefully considered the submissions of the applicant and the DIO and taken further additional guidance of circumstances elsewhere in Scotland the credibility of your organisation's objection is called into question.

On the 10th January 2012 the Chairman of the North Uist Development Company met with senior RAF personnel to discuss the proposal. He was advised that the objection had arisen because the turbines were located within a new 5 nautical mile exclusion zone around the Air Defence radar at South Clettraval. On checking the turbine locations NUDC confirmed that the turbine fell outwith the exclusion zone and that the other fell just within the new zone. The RAF personnel undertook to review the objection of the MoD in respect of the proposal. However, in response to the information indicating that the turbines lay outwith the exclusion zone boundary the DIO, on the same date, prepared a new safeguarding plan that increased the safeguarding radius to 10km which then included the community turbine locations.

I understand attempts to follow up on the discussions that took place on the 10th January 2012 were blocked by the DIO in contravention of the current Memorandum of Understanding signed by the MoD and the Scottish Government amongst others. The application was validated on the 2nd April 2013. The planning authority notified the MoD of the application on the Thursday 4th April 2013 and on the following Friday the safeguarding map that had been prepared on the 10th January was published. The DIO issued an objection to the application on the 21st May and on the same day the Scottish Executive signed off the revised safeguarding map that supported your objection.

I find the close correlation of the event dates extremely disturbing as it appears to me and others that the actions of the DIO were designed not so much to protect national defence interests but to willfully obstruct the ability of the Planning Authority to determine the planning application. In this regard I am aware that there was also a revised safeguarding map issued for precisely the same Type 92 AD radar at RAF Buchan on the 3rd June 2013. However, in that instance the national defence interest did not require the 'exclusion zone' to be extended beyond it's previous 1850 metres from the facility.
Your objection makes reference to the unacceptable impact of the proposal on two other technical sites despite the fact that the proposal lies well outwith the safeguarded areas of either site. This is unacceptable in my view.

You are advised that the Planning Authority declined to refuse the application; expressing concern solely about the MoD objection.

If the DIO is minded to withdraw its objection to this application it should do so within 10 days of the above date. If the objection is not withdrawn Scottish Ministers will be urged to initiate a Parliamentary Inquiry into the unacceptable interference of the DIO in the operation of the Scottish planning system. I am heartened by expressions of support for such an investigation received to date.

Pending the holding of such an Inquiry and the issuance of the outcome I can confirm that I shall seek cross party support for the Planning Authority to consider the immediate embargo on all further planning application consultations with the DIO apart from those proposals that fall within the statutory safeguarding boundaries. I propose to move that proposal be ratified by the Full Council just as soon as possible after the expiry of the 10 day period referred to above. You should be able to assess from your own records just how many applicants who have previously been refused planning consent because of a MoD objection may wish to reapply to the Planning Authority in circumstances where I am entirely confident that their applications will be rapidly processed to a satisfactory conclusion.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Donald Manford (SNP)
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