Fury has erupted at the news that council planners have recommended approval of a 48 turbine windfarm at the heart of a Berwickshire beauty spot.
The recommendation signals a massive U-turn by the planners who initially opposed the windfarm at Fallago Ridge in the Lammermuirs.
The windfarm plan has since been revised to 48 instead of 60 turbines but objectors protest that it will still be a massive blot on the landscape.
The site is in the middle of an area that Scottish Borders Council previousy agreed should be protected but despite this and 700 objectors – including Scottish Natural Heritage – the planners now think it should go ahead.
Protestors claim that if it does the Lammermuirs will become a giant windfarm as there are already turbines at Crystal Rig, Black Hill and nearby Soutra.
Others are in the pipeline at Johnscleugh and Aitkengall in East Lothian.
Another 48 at Fallago will mean the entire area will be spoiled for ever, claim the objectors.
Kate Knight of the Lammermuir Protection Group said: “We are really concerned about the sheer volume of the turbines that are being imposed on the Lammermuirs.
“We feel it it is a special landscape not just for the Borders but for the whole of Scotland as it is one of the few remote wildnernesses in the area.
“This is an area designated as an area of great landscape value (AGLV) and it is really important for the Borders that we maintain these areas.
“The one at Black Hill is really dominant already and we don’t want the whole space to become a turbine landscape. It is really important for Berwickshire for it to maintain that part of its identity whether or not you think that turbines are a good thing.
“We think Berwickshire has done more than its fair share already as there are going to be 81 turbines in total at Crystal Rig and there are 22 at Black Hill. Another 48 at Fallago which is at the heart of the AGLV is just taking the mickey really.
“Nobody will want to come to a place where there are so many turbines so it is an issue for tourism.”
The land is owned by the Duke of Roxburghe who is also a shareholder in North British Windpower Ltd who have put forward the application.
“The Duke is not a poor man and it is not like he really needs the money. We notice that he is not proposing to put them near Floors Castle,” said Ms Knight.
The issue was supposed to be discussed at Scottish Border’s Development and Building Control Committee on Monday but objectors protested that they had not been given enough notice about the meeting and it was agreed to postpone the decision until February 2.
Ms Knight said it was “bizarre” that planners’ revised report had suddenly appeared on Monday’s agenda without warning.
“We have been chasing them up for progress reports and it was quite difficult to get any information then suddenly at the weekend we discover it is on the agenda.
“It smacks of trying to sneak it in on the quiet and we are very disappointed in the lack of consultation.”
Scottish Natural Heritage area officer Anne Brown said SNH were “surprised” at the planners’ decision to now recommend acceptance of the farm.
She said it would still have a detrimental effect on the landscape even though the number of turbines had been cut.
“It is still a big development in what is an open rolling landscape. The site is at the heart of the council’s own designation that the land is of great landscape value,” she pointed out.
“Crystal Rig is at the edges but Fallago Ridge is near the centre and will have quite an impact.
“The other issue is that if it is already broken up and the landscape character has changed what is to stop more windfarms going up?”
Dave Lochhead, spokesman for Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council said the biggest worry was about the cumulative effect of the farms.
“Most people thought we should do our bit in terms of the environment but now there are too many,” he said.
“If this goes ahead it will become an industrialised landscape. There would be no point where you would not feel surrounded by turbines and on a large part of the Southern Upland Way you will be walking past turbines.”
Mr Lochhead said the planning criteria seemed to ignore the value of landscape to both locals and tourists.
“The social and economic health of this area depends on the landscape and its amenity. These factors are not being taken into account,” he said.
“We think all these windfarms will have a very detrimental affect on any policies to try and encourage social and economic development in this area which has been declining for the last century. People don’t want to come and live below turbines. Farmers are being asked to diversify and look at tourism but that policy will be badly affected by the introduction of turbines.”
Mr Lochhead added: “In Germany they build them close to towns so there are few transmission costs and they would never build them in the middle of the countryside. It does not make sense to destroy areas of beautiful landscape.”
Objector Richard Havers agreed and also took issue with the way the planners’ report was worded.
“It seems incredible that there is no mention of Black Hill in the report yet we will have Black Hill in the south, Crystal Rig in the corner, Fallago in the west and Soutra on the other side.
“It is an extraordinary situation especially as they have admitted previously that they should have paid more attention to the AGLV.
“I would hate to think that history is going to repeat itself and that they will approve it and say afterwards that they made a mistake.”
Mr Havers said it was important that the councillors should come to the site and see what the cumulative effect of all the windfarms would be like.
“They did come before Black Hill was built but they need to see what the cumulative effect will be.
“The proposal may have gone from 60 to 48 but fundamentally it does not alter the situation. It still means there will be another one in the Lammermuirs and one of the reasons people visit the area is because it is lovely and quiet.
“The council have also spent a lot of money reworking the route which runs through the Fallago Ridge so it just seems nonsensical to accept this.”
“They say that it will not now have such a big impact but that is very arguable.
“Each one has to have a concrete foundation size of a football pitch and that is not very environmentally friendly.
“If you go up to Crystal Rig now there are no birds, no wildlife. The place is like the Tundra.”
However, Brian Frater, the council’s head of planning and building services, said the plan was now very different.
“They have reduced the scheme and changed it so we felt it tipped the balance.
“The area of great landscape value is a fact that we have to consider but it does not mean that development is prohibited,” he said.
“These areas of great landscape value cover quite large areas and they are not intended to stop development. We have to look at each application on its merit.”
Mr Frater also pointed out that Scottish Borders Council were just consultees and that the final decision would be made by the Scottish Executive.
“With the changes that have been introduced we felt we are not justified in a formal objection.”
He added that the reason the objectors had not received enough notification of Monday’s meeting was due to staff absences and that it was agreed that the issue should be postponed to the next meeting as a result.
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