Storm brews over wind turbine height

WIND turbines have been getting increasingly higher and here in Berwickshire, Scottish Borders Council seems to have decided that turbines over 100 metres in more lowland settings are unacceptable.

Developers of six proposed wind farms in Berwickshire have been contacted within the past fortnight and advised that their plans will be recommended for refusal because of the height of the turbines and because they are considered incompatible with the landscape.

SBC officers and Scottish Natural Heritage representatives met to view the cumulative impact of potential wind farms from several different sites in the surrounding area.

This resulted in SBC contacting developers of the proposed wind farms at Kinegar/Neuk Farm, Hoprigshiels, Blackburn Farm, Quixwood, Penmanshiel and Monashee (plus Fernyside in East Lothian); an SBC planning officer telling them: “The consensus of opinion relating to all the wind farm proposals is that none are compatible with the surrounding landscape.

“The scale of the turbines is such that they appear too dominant in relation to everything else in the landscape.

“When a view is taken on the wind farms which have been built in the more domestic/agricultural landscape (as opposed to the upland landscape where, for example Crystal Rig has been built) it is clear that the scale of Drone Hill and Black Hill is more reasonable (80m) if not ideal, whereas the 100m+ schemes have the potential to be overly dominant both in cumulative and intrinsic terms.

“Your proposal is not considered to be compatible with planning policy relating to wind and renewables by the planning department and would be recommended for refusal, principally on the grounds that the development would be overly dominant and incongruous in the landscape.”

Berwickshire Housing Association’s planned three 115 metre wind turbines at Hoprigshiel was one of those on the planners lists, and chief executive of the association, Helen Forsyth said: “ We are enormously disappointed.

“It means we will struggle to fund new affordable homes to meet the increasing demand.

“All of the money is going to be coming into Berwickshire. We haven’t given up and we will seek ways to make our case because we believe it meets planning guidelines.

Mark Dowdall, director environment and community at Banks Renewables, Quixwood wind farm developers, responded: “We are convinced of the merits of our proposal for a wind farm at Quixwood Moor, which will not only provide a viable source of energy from renewable means but will also bring with it a wealth of benefits for the local community.

“We are considering the points raised in the letter received from Scottish Borders Council and we will be keeping the community surrounding the site fully informed of any decisions we take.

“The site itself has been carefully selected and scoped by us to ensure that it is a suitable location for a wind farm and falls mostly within an area designated by Borders Council spatial strategy as one of minor constraint for wind farm development.

“Fundamental to everything we do is our development with care approach and we seek to engage with local communities throughout the planning process.

“Getting planning permission is only part of what we do. It is vital that we have a partnership with the local community so they back our development and so that local families and businesses see real benefits.

“The advice of the planning department is that this application should be withdrawn to enable consideration to be given to a greatly reduced scale of turbine.”

Mark Rowley, chairman, Cranshaws, Ellenford & Longformacus Community Council, welcomed the stance taken by the planners and said: “ We can only hope this shows local planners, and Scottish Natural Heritage, are at last recognising just how vast and overwhelming the scale and number of wind farm developments affecting the Lammermuirs and Berwickshire, but it would be a chilling concern if this is an indication to developers that 80m turbines would be acceptable in these locations. 80m turbines are huge structures and in these locations would be devastating.

“SBC should now join other councils and call for a temporary moratorium on wind farm development until they can properly assess the effects of existing schemes across the Borders.”

Opponents of the proposed Blackmains wind farm near Ayton are encouraged by the stand being made by council planners and it was discussed at a public meeting in Ayton Village Hall last night (Wednesday).

“We warmly welcome the advice of Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Natural Heritage that none of the major wind farm proposals currently in planning for East Berwickshire are compatible with the surrounding landscape,” said a spokesperson for the opposition group.

“We are pleased that the cumulative impact of so many individual proposals in such a small region has at last been recognised; these schemes can no longer be considered in isolation. This is a powerful message and it shows that the authorities are finally beginning to the listen to the views of local people who are concerned about the rapid industrialisation of the beautiful east Berwickshire landscape and fearful for our future if it should become a turbine landscape.”