5. Recommendations for local authorities
5.1 Public participation is essential in the planning process. Undertaking meaningful public engagement is not always straightforward and can be challenging. Planning authorities have a role to play in making the planning process accessible, to lower barriers to participation.
5.2 Planning officers and elected members can support members of the public in this process. The planning system should, as far as is practical, provide a forum for listening to a range of views based on a variety of sources of knowledge and experience. Local knowledge in particular should be valued and encouraged. Members of the public should be supported to articulate their views by sharing their own particular perspective, experience or knowledge.
5.3 Planning authorities should prepare and apply clear planning policy and guidance on wind energy developments in accordance with national and where relevant SDP policy and guidance. This should be done in consultation with stakeholders including neighbouring planning authorities. Background documents that inform to the preparation of guidance, such as landscape capacity studies, should be made transparent and consulted on where appropriate, as they are often used in the assessment of planning applications for wind energy development.
5.4 Draft development plans and guidance produced by planning authorities should be clear about intentions and the factors on which views are sought. The audience and objectives should be the determining factors in the type of document produced. Planning authorities should manage the expectations of consultees, by being clear about what the consultation can and cannot achieve and how far consultees can influence the final outcome.
5.5 Officers and elected members can help to direct members of the public to appropriate information sources and guidance or advice related to specific developments. Elected members may be asked to comment as part of pre-application discussions between the planning authority and the developer. Guidance on the Role of Councillors in Pre-Application Procedures  is available to steer parties in such instances. It provides guidance to local authorities on locally agreed and adopted procedures for such discussions. Elected members may be approached by members of public and both the guidance and the Councillors Code of Conduct  provide advice on how such approaches can be managed appropriately. Local authorities can also steer members of the public to the Planning Information Notices for Scotland ( PINS) portal ( www.tellmescotland.gov.uk) which allows members of the public to receive updates on advertised planning applications and other notices.
5.6 The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 require planning authorities to send notice of planning applications to premises situated on neighbouring land.
5.7 Neighbour notification of planning applications is intended to notify those with premises on land immediately next to a proposal site. Beyond that, reliance is placed on statutory requirements for newspaper notices, consultation with community councils, on-line weekly lists and lists in libraries and planning offices to get word out into the wider community.
5.8 In some cases planning authorities may be aware of particular parties or stakeholders who might wish to comment on a proposal; possibly based upon past experience or dialogue with groups or individuals. If approached by developers, planning authorities can assist by providing them with details of those parties that they have ready access to; applying appropriate data protection rules where required. This will allow applicants/developers to make contact with those stakeholders early on to outline the development proposals and identify how they might access information or comment on the proposals. Planning officers should be able to identify relevant contacts within their local authority, for example community council liaison officers, who may be best placed to identify potential issues and stakeholder contacts within areas where a wind energy development is proposed.
5.9 Planning authorities may wish to develop a protocol to ensure a consistent approach in contacting community councils on planning applications within their area. Where development might impact on a neighbouring authority, a starting point would be to consult with every community council which the application site covers, and any community council which has a direct boundary with the application site, where appropriate. Consideration could also be given to circumstances where there are likely to be prominent or expansive views of the development, and to engage with community groups within those areas; for example coastal settlements in neighbouring authorities with views across major rivers/firths/lochs and sea lochs, or where development is on a prominent hill or ridgeline.
Lists of applications and the display of information
5.10 Authorities could consider producing separate lists of wind turbine proposals which can assist in monitoring the number of applications coming forward. Where resources are available, some planning authorities have taken this further by providing interactive mapping facilities, for example those in Argyll and Bute  Council, Fife Council  and Highland Council  . These are publicly accessible and are regularly updated.