Council objects to wind farms plan

AS those involved with the recently re-opened Fallago Rig public inquiry await a decision, the recommedation to approve yet another windfarm for the Borders was challenged by members of Scottish Borders Council on Monday.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 7th July 2010, 12:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2010, 12:01 pm

And on the same day, members of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council lent their support to a petition calling for a Parliamentary review of renewable energy policy.

The application for a 23 turbine development at Rowantree, near Oxton, was put to councillors at a meeting of the planning and building standards committee, and they were urged by planning officers to give it the green light.

However, Nicholas Watson, councillor for Melrose and Leaderdale, moved that SBC should object to the proposals on grounds of visual impact, noise and cumulative impact and his amendment gained the support of the majority of his colleagues.

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This means that like Fallago Rig, the fate of Rowantree will now be decided by way of a public inquiry.

Commenting on the application, Councillor Watson said: "Suggesting the turbines could be satisfactorily contained by their setting was nonsense; they may be set in a partly hidden landscape but they are so huge that they would be visible from many parts of both Lauderdale and the Gala Valley. A giant can't hide by standing in a paddling pool."

"Sometimes these judgements are difficult and the report suggested that SBC needed more information.

"But having been on the site visit and seen the theoretical visibility charts, and refreshed by an early hike up Dabshead Hill before the meeting, I was quite clear that this application was a step too far, extending the group of present windfarms right down onto the shoulder of land between Oxton and Stow."

Asked what he thought Scottish Ministers would make of SBC's objection Councillor Watson, Leader of the Borders Party, said: "They will know that the Borders is already one of the top two wind energy producers in Scotland and I'm sure they'll understand our clear view of how damaging this development would be, a view which is well backed up by Scottish Planning Policy.

"Looking after our landscape isn't just about keeping the Borders a great place to live in; it's also about attracting tourists and investors.

"This is too big a wind farm and in the wrong place: precisely the sort of development the planning system is designed to protect us from."

East Berwickshire Councillor Trevor Jones also spoke against the application, and concerns about the effect of noise on nearby properties, further impact on the Southern Upland Way and huge volumes of construction traffic were also raised.

At the vote a clear majority opposed the application, with a show of hands resulting in Councillor Watson's amendment being carried by seven votes to four.

Frustrated by SBC planning officials' trend of recommending approval of more windfarms for the area, David Lochhead, chair of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council wrote a letter to the Head of Planning and Chief Executive earlier this week asking why officers routinely recommend approval when there are seemingly very good planning reasons for them to object.

Vice Chair of the Community Council, Mark Rowley commented: "Planners seem to be keener to follow the Scottish Government's policy of consenting renewables at any cost whilst the public, and thankfully our councillors, are now recognising that enough is enough and the cost of these developments on our lives and landscapes is just too great.

"The Community Council do recognise that even when there are very good planning reasons for local authorities to object, and even when Public Inquiries recommend refusal, the Scottish Ministers often overrule - this has lead us to sponsor a petition to the Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament asking for a review.

"Already over 600 have joined to support us and the number is growing daily so we very much hope to bring this matter to the heart of the Scottish Parliament for debate soon."

The petition can be viewed at http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=394.