SCOTTISH Government plans to take half of the planning fees from major windfarm developments have been called ‘unjust’ by a Borders councillor.

Tom Miers (Cons), who chairs Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee, has criticised proposals to increase the fees levied on major planning developments, claiming it amounts to a ‘rural tax’.

Plans to introduce greater planning fees for major developments have been in the works for sometime, but previous proposals from the SNP Government faced a backlash for trying to increase the fees by ten times the current level.

Last week, the Scottish Government announced it would introduce much smaller fees, but would still take half of the fees levied by local authorities.

Councillor Miers said: “These plans are quite unjust. Local authorities have to do an enormous amount of work on the planning applications and for the Scottish Government to take half the fees is wrong.

“Developers should pay for the work they impose, but the money should stay in the local area.

“In effect, this plan amounts to a ‘rural tax’ by the Scottish Government on the Borders, potentially worth millions of pounds in coming years.”

“Thanks to our objections, the Scottish Government has amended their proposals to reduce the amount they take.

“This means they accept the principle that local communities should be compensated for the work involved in processing these applications, so why still take half the cash?

“The SNP seems to have little regard for local democracy in general and the Borders in particular.”

Local planning authorities are statutory consultees when a proposed development is located within their boundary.

For onshore windfarm applications, the cost to planning authorities of undertaking their statutory function in this process is included in the local authority settlement.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The decision to increase fees has been made to recover more of the substantial costs of determining complex section applications and follows consideration of the points raised by respondents, including members of Scottish Borders Council, to our previous consultation.

“We have taken on board this feedback and a number of changes have been made to the final package of fees.

“Planning authorities will receive substantially more money for the administration of such applications than under the current arrangements or the proposition originally consulted on.

“Indeed, the charges for windfarm schemes over 50MW, under section 36, have now been brought into line with the fees local authorities already receive for processing applications for wind energy schemes under the 50MW threshold.”

A government spokesperson also highlighted that under a voluntary arrangement, the Scottish Government allocates additional support to the relevant planning authorities to provide assistance with their duties as consultees on large schemes over 50MW that can often result in more complex applications.

According to the SNP Government, once proposed fees are implemented, planning authorities would receive £62,500 for providing ministers with their views on a 50-100MW wind farm, which is a substantial increase over the contribution of £12,000 under the current arrangements.