Welcome to land of the thousand turbines

SCOTTISH Natural Heritage has just published a new set of windfarm guidelines at the same time that an opponent of large scale windfarms in the Lammermuirs warns that the number of turbines in the area is heading towards the one thousand mark.

Highlighting the information in Scottish Borders Council’s March summary of known windfarm development across the Scottish Borders Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council said: “It includes only schemes from known public sources, so is likely to significantly underestimate the underlying pressure from (as yet) unknown progressing developments - ie the “Rumsfelds”, the “unknown, unknowns”.

“This suggests there are currently; 236 major turbines at application; 65 with proposal of application notices lodged and progressing to application; 45 at public enquiry stage (Rowantree & Wester Dod awaiting decision); 11 via Scottish Government consent; 116 consented; 257 operational; 96 refused.

“The number at application stage is likely to exceed 300 within the next few months and around another 250 or so are known to be at pre-application or scoping with unknown numbers in addition to those.

“Welcome to the land of a thousand turbines!”

A 70m turbine north of Blackhouse Cottages, Eyemouth, that had initially been rejected by a Scottish Borders Council planning officer can now go up after a review of the case overturned the original decision. The reason for the initial refusal was because of its location, height, dominant impact on the landscape and the cumulative effect with Black Hill wind farm. However, the latest decision is that it can go ahead subject to a number of conditions.

A further three turbines planned at Cockburn Farm, Duns, were also knocked back by planners - because of the prominent location, height and placement of the turbines - and again the applicant has requested a review of that decision.

And two turbines near Oldhamstocks, and less than a kilometre away from the Aikengall II wind farm extension, were last week refused planning permission by East Lothian Council because it went against their landscape capacity study for smaller wind turbines. The applicant, however, argued that given that Aikengall I and II had been passed, it seemed to be “a little bit contradictory” to say his turbine plan would have a significant, harmful visual impact.

The pressure group Sustain a Beautiful East Lothian (SABEL) and Oldhamstocks resident Angus MacDonald warned that East Lothian was in danger of getting “saturated” with wind turbines and that East Lothian had “done its bit” with renewable energy.

Mr McGregor added: “The number of these turbines is really out of control if you consider Crystal Rig, Aikengall, Wester Dod and all the small installations lower down and there are 30 applications in the pipeline, representing another 50 turbines - it just goes on and on.”

In an effort to clarify Scottish Natural Heritage’s role in the wind farm planning process they have set out what in their view makes for “good development in the right places.”

Peter Hutchinson, head of advice on planning and renewables at SNH, said: “We support renewable energy as a means of addressing the challenge of climate change. Our role is to provide advice on good practice to planners and developers so they can balance the needs of people and nature with wider social and economic needs. The aim of our advice is to make sure the right developments happen in the right places.

“We recognise, however, that it would be impractical for us to get involved in all applications. Given the demand on our resources from larger scale renewable energy development, we will be more selective and targeted in our engagement with small scale wind energy proposals. This means we will provide guidance on good practice and target our advice on applications that require environmental impact assessment or a habitats regulations appraisal.”

Speaking about the new guidance Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “It will help planners and developers consider the needs of people, renewable energy and nature and will help ensure a consistent, streamlined approach to wind turbine applications.”