Coldingham couple fight for right of way

Footpath access at Coldingham Moor
Footpath access at Coldingham Moor

A Coldingham couple are leaving no stone unturned in their fight to have the public right of way across the moor as accessible as it was before the Drone Hill wind farm arrived.

The Health and Safety Executive, Scottish Borders Council officials, east Berwickshire councillors, MP Michael Moore and MSPs John Lamont and Paul Wheelhous were all invited to Drone Hill by George and Stella Matthews last year to see for themselves the problems facing resident and walkers, but so far none of them has been.

A kissing gate erected onto Howpark Road prevents horse riders and cyclists from accessing the moor.

The long-standing public right of way has been re-directed and now takes walkers right underneath at least one of the 76m turbines. Walkers also have to negotiate areas of deep heather, peat bog, and climb over barbed wire fences.

John Lamont replied to their request, agreeing to visit once a Scottish Borders Council investigation into public access and safety has been carried out. But so far that investigation does not appear to have been completed.

SBC’s major applications, review and enforcement manager, Ian Aikman, said: “Mr and Mrs Mathews have raised the issue of the safety and usability of the public right of way through the wind farm.

“Whilst the developer has met the terms of the planning conditions on the site, recently cattle grids have been inserted across the access and these have limited pedestrian access. However, the developer has agreed to insert suitable gates adjoining the cattle grids to allow for safe public access.

“Once completed, this will address the only outstanding issues that the council is pursuing.”

AES, the company running the wind farm, has agreed to alter the public access at the two cattle grids but they have refused to replace the kissing gate at Howpark Road

“We know that there was actually an old metal swing gate which was left accessible which enabled public access,” said George Matthews. “The old gate is still lying adjacent to the new gate.

“Rather than providing a new gate, why does AES not just un-chain and padlock the new large swing gate next to the kissing gate?”

When it comes to walking across the moor, Mr Matthews points out: “The hidden gullies of water and boggy conditions make for very unsafe walking.

“In order to reach the A1107 and exit the wind farm without walking underneath the blades of the turbines the public have to make their way through these hazards which is a worse scenario than before the wind farm was constructed.”

The Matthews and other neighbours have complained of the noise nuisance from the wind farm, which they claim has increased since last autumn. Mr and Mrs Matthews also question whether the turbines are being turned off during periods of high winds.

“We have only seen the turbines turned off once during the prolonged and recent high winds, that was on December 5, 2013,” said Mr Matthews.

“We understand that wind turbines should be turned off when the wind speed reached 55 mph, recently we have had wind speeds way in excess of that.”