Iconic landmark under threat from wind turbine proposal

Hume Castle built in the 13th century overlooking teh Merse.
Hume Castle built in the 13th century overlooking teh Merse.

HUME Castle, a Berwickshire landmark and iconic viewpoint near Greenlaw is, for the second time, threatened by an application for a wind turbine development.

In 2011, permission was granted by a single planning officer under discretionary powers for two turbines to be erected 1.9 km east of the castle, despite a request from Greenlaw and Hume Community Council, which had unanimously opposed the application, that more time be given for views to be made known.

The latest proposed development by VG Energy on behalf of Andrew Darling of Stichill Home Farm is for a turbine 36.085 metres tall (over 118 feet) to be erected in a field just 764 metres (less than half a mile) west of the castle, with an associated meter house, access track and hard-standing area.

Hume Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, originally dating from the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century, set on an imposing crag and built to be seen from many miles away, with magnificent panoramic views over the Cheviots, the Merse and the Lammermuirs. The view westward in particular towards the Eildon Hills, the Waterloo Monument and nearby Hareheugh Craigs (itself an SSI) has been called one of the finest and most far-ranging views in the Borders, if not in Britain.

As a recognised “iconic viewpoint”, the castle was placed within a two-kilometer area of constraints or ‘protection zone’ in the SBC Local Plan. The proposal for another turbine very close to the castle is highly controversial because of the alleged impact a high, moving turbine would have on this celebrated view and the perceived danger that a precedent could open the floodgates to further applications.

Worries have been expressed that Greenlaw and Hume Community Council has been inactive for several months and so is unable at present to provide representative views of local people.

The date for responses to the notice is November 8. Even though the proposal has still not been advertised locally, comments sent to the Planning Department to date have been overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.

The Earl of Home, as head of the Home Clan, has asked SBC to reject the application, He said: “I feel strongly that everything possible should be done to preserve the history of Hume Castle in as near a perfect state as is possible in this day and age.” He believes that two existing turbines to the east of the castle already compromise the beauty of the area.

David Home of Wedderburn Castle thinks the case against the siting of the turbine to be overwhelming. He added: “To knowingly destroy this view, turbine by turbine like nails in a coffin, is indefensible.”

Gospatrick Home, trustee of the Hume Castle Preservation Trust, fears that visitors from the USA, the Commonwealth and the rest of the UK to the Hume/Home Clan Gathering planned for Hume Castle in September 2013 will be horrified “if such an eyesore be created so close”.

Historic Scotland, whilst drawing attention to the disadvantages, have not objected to the proposal but the Hume Castle Preservation Trust and the Berwickshire Civic Society strongly disagree, believing that one of the greatest assets provided by the castle to the entire locality is the exceptionally fine all-round viewpoint from the observation platform which draws tourists and visitors from all over the world. The comparatively minimal and restricted benefit of the development in terms of renewable energy would not, in their opinion, sufficiently outweigh the serious environmental consequences.

The SBC archaeology officer, Dr Christopher Bowles, has recommended that the application be refused on the grounds that the development would not be of similar national importance to the monument and would not carry sufficient social benefit.

B and B operators in the area are also worried that the turbine would have a negative influence on the castle and its views and therefore on tourism and visitors to the region.

Concerns have also been expressed by locals about the effect of the turbine on local amenities. A mediaeval loaning runs along the boundary of the field in which it will be sited which leads to Hume Burial Ground and joins another leading back to the castle, both used by local walkers, dog-walkers and horse-riders, mainly with children riding.

“There is too much to be lost and too little to be gained”, says one objecting resident.