Section 27 — Special procedure for applications relating to certain electricity works

Marine (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:00 am on 4th February 2010.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 10:00 am, 4th February 2010

Group 10 is on marine licensing: electricity works. Amendment 113, in the name of Elaine Murray, is grouped with amendment 44.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 10:15 am, 4th February 2010

Amendment 113 would require the Scottish ministers, when—and only when—they sought to use the power in section 27 to require an application for a marine licence and an application under the Electricity Act 1989 to be treated jointly, to give any planning authority adjacent to the offshore site the right to object and thereby trigger a public inquiry.

As members know, a terrestrial planning application for energy generation of more than 50MW will be referred to the Scottish ministers for determination. The planning authority or authorities are statutory consultees and an objection from them will trigger a public inquiry. That happened in my constituency in the case of the Harestanes wind farm application, which was approved by ministers in 2007 after a public inquiry was triggered by the objections of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Schedule 8 to the 1989 act, which deals with section 36 and section 37 applications, requires marine applications above 1MW to be referred to ministers. However, the definition of "relevant planning authority" under schedule 8 is more difficult in the marine area. Referral applies only if the marine area is within the area of jurisdiction of the authority rather than in relation to the area's geographical relevance to a local authority. In the case of the Robin Rigg development in the Solway Firth, Cumbria County Council and SNH objected to the application, but the application was determined without a public inquiry being held.

The 1989 act is United Kingdom legislation and cannot be amended by the Scottish Parliament. Hence amendment 113 would apply only when ministers had determined that a marine licensing application to them was being considered jointly with an application referred to them under the 1989 act. Amendment 113 would provide that in such cases the relevant planning authority to be consulted would be any local authority or national park authority

"whose area is adjacent to any part of the Scottish marine area where the generating station (or any part of it) is, or is proposed to be, situated".

Amendment 113 has the support of the Royal Town Planning Institute and I understand that it also has the support of local authorities.

I move amendment 113.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Amendment 113 would place an absolute requirement to apply a modified version of paragraph 2 of schedule 8 to the Electricity Act 1989 in cases in which there is to be a single process for applications for a marine licence and consent under the 1989 act. However, we have not yet reached a final view on exactly which provisions of the 1989 act are to apply in the single process, nor how they should best be modified. Amendment 113 could restrict our ability to develop a sensible and flexible process under section 27. I ask Elaine Murray to seek leave to withdraw it, in light of my comments.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I seek assurance from the cabinet secretary that we can be updated on the progress of his discussions. On the basis of what he said I am content not to press amendment 113, but the issue is important and I would like to be kept informed as it evolves.

Amendment 113, by agreement, withdrawn.