The Wind Farm Impacts Study report, which is the first of its kind in the world, is rigorous and ensures appropriate siting of wind farms. Studies like this will make sure this improvement continues, and we will consider the recommendations carefully.
Scottish Government Renewables Routemap (2015; p. 13)
The potential impact of a wind farm development is central in the planning process. The Wind Farm Impacts Study was initiated following anecdotal evidence that the noise, shadow flicker and visual impacts on people living beside wind farms was not adequately assessed in the planning process. Groups campaigning against wind farms had been very active in the public debate with criticism of how local residents were prepared for the impact, and how it was measured: Was the planning system supporting accurate assessments of these impacts in advance of the schemes being constructed, and were people being sufficiently protected through the planning system?
From the start this project was designed with a stakeholder steering group which included both proponents and opponents of wind farms, to ensure the potentially contested results would be widely accepted. As a result of tight project management and the stakeholder scrutiny throughout the process, the robust report contained a series of well evidenced and forward looking recommendations. Stakeholders remain engaged and are taking forward discussions on how the recommendations can be addressed.
Through deep and regular engagement across all stakeholder groups we built relationships between the stakeholders that can be used to continue policy appraisals and deliberations. Our value was not just as ‘host’ for the research but also as chair of the steering group and arbiter of the perspectives represented on that group. The CXC project manager also acted as the public face of the project – projecting independence and neutrality vis a vis the interested public, the media, direct project stakeholders and the onshore wind industry.
Bringing in a wide steering group had profound impact on the design of the Wind Farm Impacts Study. Given the contentious nature of the issue, the credibility of the project rested with having the backing of the full range of stakeholders. Designing this into how the project was shaped and developed provided a forum where the different views could be discussed.