'Arrogant attitude' of wind farm developers slammed
FOR the second time in just over two years, those involved with the Fallago Rig windfarm inquiry will journey into the Lammermuirs to see for themselves just how turbines have affected the landscape.
At the moment there are 464 turbines either constructed, consented or at the planning stage in a 26x15 kilometre area and the re-convened public inquiry into an application for 48 more drew to a close at Duns Volunteer Hall last Thursday with closing submissions from all the parties involved.
But before any final decision is made by Scottish Ministers, a site visit will take place next week at the request of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council.
In their closing submission, David Lochhead and Mark Rowley, representing the community council and Gordon and Westruther Community Council, slammed the applicant, North British Windpower for adopting "an arrogant attitude" throughout proceedings and said although the Ministry of Defence were happy that the integration of a radar from RAF Leuchars would quell their original fear that the turbines at Fallago would disrupt air defences, the community council would strongly object to any approval on this basis as the mitigation hadn't yet been tested.
The joint community council statement also centered on what they labelled a "cosy agreement" between NBWp and the MoD which saw discussions between them and the Scottish Government's Renewable Energy division, take place not in a public setting but the London home of a NBWp director.
Mark Rowley singled out the evidence of landscape architect Rebecca Rylott for criticism.
She appeared on behalf of the applicant and Mr Rowley poured scorn on her precognition for its "omission of highly relevant windfarm proposals" for the Lammermuirs and also on her claim she had no knowledge of Scottish Borders Council's windfarm database, and admission of using photos from 2007 when addressing current landscape issues.
Mr Rowley said that should the application for the 48 turbine development eventually be approved by Ministers, it would be due to "the intimidation of the financial power of the wind energy industry" and added that other windfarms in the pipeline would be "virtually impossible to refuse" should Fallago Rig be given the go-ahead.
Giving a closing submission on behalf of Black Mountain Farms and others, John Campbell QC described the evidence of both the MoD and North British Windpower as "a beguiling cats cradle of hope and aspiration" which suggested that degraded radar performance was now acceptable.
Like David Lochhead, Mr Campbell said that the "covert and secret discussions" of last summer were improperand the antithesis of an impartial and fair tribunal.
Addressing the community council's and Mr Campbell's criticism of the discussions which went on between themselves, NBWp and Government officials last summer, Ailsa Wilson QC, representing the Ministry of Defence said that there was nothing covert about the talks as it was "the expectation of the Government that such colloborations between key stakeholders would take place to try and find a solution", adding that third parties such as the community council and Scottish Borders Council weren't involved as they "couldn't be viewed as key stakeholders."
Ms Wilson said that the only complaint the third parties could legitimately have was if their position in the public inquiry process had been prejudiced.
And she added that the decision to re-open proceedings and allow all parties to participate in a public examination of available evidence in regard to the mitigation meant that any complaint held little weight.
Ms Wilson added that rather than the MoD's change of stance being attributed to "inappropriate interference from either civil servants or politicians", attention should be paid to the changes in the national renewable energy policy framework since February 2008 and the initiatives that have been pursued by the UK government to address the constraint on proposed windfarm development rising from military and civil aviation interests.
She told presiding Reporter Karen Heywood, who previously recommended refusal on the grounds of the Ministry's objection: "If the MoD expresses itself content with the proposed mitigation measure, it is not for Scottish Ministers, or this inquiry to conduct its own investigation into the details of the MoD's justification for that position."
Ending proceedings for North British Windpower Ltd, Roy Martin QC, invited the Reporter to recommend to Ministers that approval be granted due to the MoD withdrawing their objection.
He said: "The evidence in relation to any other change of circumstances since February 2008 has demonstrated that the national energy and development plan policy support for the development of a wind farm at Fallago Rig has increased and that the emergence of further consented and possible wind farm development in the vicinity has not increased the cumulative and landscape impacts associated with the application.
"No other relevant consideration which is material has changed and, in particular, the design of the proposed wind farm has remained exactly the same as that which the Reporter found to be acceptable."
Although all evidence has now been given, the reconvened inquiry will be brought to a close with a site visit on Wednesday, May 5.
As well as taking in the proposed windfarm site itself, the route across the Lammermuirs will also include two of the sites where SBC found evidence of unauthorised works.
Commenting on the visit, Mark Rowley said: "With so much of what has brought about the second Fallago Inquiry a result of discussions taking place in secret we hope that an open site visit will do something to start to repair the community's loss of faith in the fairness of the planning system."
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Weather for Duns
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: South