Lack of wind farm consultation

THE views of Berwickshire residents are not being sought about wind farm applications on the English side of the border for turbines that will be clearly visible on the Scottish side and there is increasing frustration at the lack of communications between Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

Residents in Coldstream have raised concerns about a wind farm at Wark Common in Northumberland that would be visible from the town. Their gripe is not only the wind farm proposal itself but also the fact that they have not been consulted about it and local MSP John Lamont has taken up the cause.

Mr Lamont said, “The granting of planning applications for wind farms can be very controversial, with many communities concerned about the impact they will have on our landscape. Any proposed wind farm should be notified to local residents.

“However, I am becoming increasingly concerned that wind farm applications on the other side of the border are not being adequately notified to communities in Scotland. A proposed wind farm at Wark Common in Northumberland will be visible from Coldstream yet no one in the town has been consulted.

“These turbines could have a hugely negative effect on our countryside and local residents could be very upset with the plans. They deserve to have their voice heard and should be given the opportunity to do so. Regardless of which side of the border planning applications are made, nearby residents should be notified. Too often they are kept in the dark and hear about it only too late to do anything about it. There should always be communication between councils if the impact of decisions they make will impact on another region.”

Martin Brims, chairman of Coldstream Community Council, added: “I share the concerns of local residents regarding the lack of consultation and would welcome the opportunity to comment on such proposals. However, this gap in cross-border consultation is not a recent development - it has existed for some time and whether or not we, as a community, are invited to comment on planning applications seems to be governed by the legislation applicable to the planning authority. In this case there does not appear to be a requirement for the applicant or Northumberland County Council to consult with communities beyond their county boundary.

“As a community council, we are aware that we are effectively powerless to insist on consultation, no matter how much we would like it. I echo the desire of Mr Lamont to encourage greater collaboration between SBC and NCC regarding such matters, and we would be interested to learn what specific proposals Mr Lamont has in mind to address this issue and close this gap.”

At Wark, Straker Farms is planning to build a turbine measuring 55m to hub height and 71m to blade tip just over 0.5km from the nearest unrelated neighbour. It says the turbine, which would have an output of 275kw, would address the energy requirements of the farm, reduce its carbon footprint and promote renewable energy in the area. However, there have been 41 letters of objection outlining concerns about the scale of the turbine, its visual impact and the potential impact on tourism and wildlife.

Fears about cumulative impact were also raised but the nearest wind farm with granted planning consent is at Barmoor 15km away and the nearest operational one at Black Hill, Duns.