Wind farms divide communities

Sunset over Blacklaw WindFarm.
Sunset over Blacklaw WindFarm.

The most notable effect of any wind turbine proposal is to poison relationships within and between communities.

That is the view shared by two Borders pressure groups which want to ensure renewable energy developers pay more than lip service to the ethos of “public engagement” in seeking support for their often contentious proposals.

Between them, the Lauderdale Preservation Group (LPG) and the Borders Network of Conservation Groups (BNCG) represent around 20 ad hoc community bodies who have objected to turbines on their patch – with varying degrees of success.

The Scottish Government set a deadline of last month for consultation responses on its plans to introduce new “good practice” guidelines for improved public engagement when wind farm plans are unveiled.

In their submissions just published, both the LPG and the BNCG give a qualified welcome for guidelines, but bemoan the fact that they will not be enshrined in legislation.

“A fundamental flaw in the government’s approach to community engagement, and one which is exploited by developers…is the assumption that there can be a single community voice on developments,” states the BNCG.

“Unfortunately the experience of far too many otherwise cohesive communities is that wind farm applications can be socially divisive in the extreme.

“The developers’ tactics have been to ignore the minority of residents who would actually be affected and to concentrate the offer of ‘community benefit’ on the wider settlement, in one case as an explicit bribe in return for non-objection.

“Similarly, where more than one community council is consulted, developers concentrate their efforts on those bodies least or not affected at all.”

The LPG pours scorn on existing guidelines which it claims are “widely disregarded by developers, many of whom have a track record of duplicity and misdirection both in their dealings with the public and in their written and visual submissions”.

“The most notable effect of any wind turbine proposal is to poison relationships within and between communities,” says the LPG. “The turbine owner sees profit and the neighbours see disturbance and loss of the savings in their homes.

“The outcome in all cases can be the destruction of a community whether or not the proposal is consented.”

The Scottish Government is due to publish and implement its public engagement guidelines in the spring.

Meanwhile, Berwickshire’s MSP John Lamont says he is “disappointed” the Scottish Government does not intend to review current planning guidelines regarding the proximity of wind turbines to public roads.

It follows the discovery two weeks ago of a spoiler – a component of a turbine – on a road near Stow.