AN action group is set to be formed tonight (Thursday) to fight proposals for a major wind farm near Ashkirk.
That is the likely outcome of a public meeting which is being held in the Foreman Hall, Roberton, at 7.30pm.
It will be chaired by Deborah Bohn, a local resident of 20 years, who believes it is Roberton, Upper Teviotdale and the Borthwick Valley, rather than Ashkirk, which will bear the brunt of the plans, submitted in June by Greenock-based Airtricity.
The company wants to build 10 giant turbines, each 390ft tall and with blades extending to 140ft, at Langhope Rig, four miles west of Ashkirk where the company has already hosted two exhibitions. Three full-time jobs will be created and the installation will be decommissioned after 25 years.
Mrs Bohn believes wind farm protesters across the region must learn the lessons from a similar development at Halkburn near Galashiels which was approved last month after applicants Wind Prospect Ltd appealed to the Scottish Executive.
In that instance, the reasons cited for overturning the refusal of Scottish Borders Council were the lack of dissent from Scottish Natural Heritage and the relatively small number of objections from members of the public.
“We must be careful to ensure that the public makes its voice heard and has its say forcefully and in large numbers for, make no mistake, this will have a devastating effect on Roberton and its surrounding communities.”
Because the site falls just within Selkirkshire, it is outwith the jurisidiction of the Upper Teviotdale Community Council.
“In truth, the impact will not be felt badly in Ashkirk because the traffic serving the site will not pass through the village. It is the road to Roberton from the A7, via Howcleugh, Greenbanks and Alemoor, which will have to accommodate these huge lorries and whole sections will have to be straightened, bridges demolished and new ones constructed.”
Although SNH has yet to comment on the proposal, Mrs Bohn and her supporters have found a significant ally in Buccleuch Estates, owners of 17,000ha Bowhill estate whose boundary adjoins the proposed Langhope Rig wind farm site.
In a letter of objection to Scottish Borders Council, Frank Lewis-Bown, Buccleuch’s project research officer, says the applicants’ environmental assessment should have included the impact on Bowhill which is designated in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.
He claims that, under SBC’s Local Plan policy, the impact of the wind farm on the remote landscape was unacceptable, while there were real concerns about the ability of local roads to cope.
He says the turbines will lie on the south side of Akermoor Loch, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) favoured by many wintering wildfowl species. There were fears about barn owls being struck by turbine blades and disturbance to the small population of rare black grouse. Otters and water voles could all be disturbed by the development.
Mr Lewis-Bown, who will address tonight’s meeting, also calls for SBC to develop its own strategic regional impact assessment because of the number of applications (more than 20) in the pipeline.
Mrs Bohn said it was important for concerned locals to attend tonight’s meeting. “Because of the position of the site, Roberton has not been consulted through the normal channels, so it will make a huge difference if as many people as possible attend. This really is a situation of this valley being under threat,” she said.
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