The prospect of a Public Inquiry into North British Windpower Ltd’s plans to build a 48 turbine wind farm at Fallago Rig is looking ever more likely now that Scottish Borders Council has become the latest in an increasing list of organisations and individuals to object to it.
Councillors at last Friday’s development and building control committee meeting were applauded by local people opposed to the development when they voted 9-3 to continue to object to the wind farm application, despite the number of 110-125m high turbines being reduced from the original number of 62.
The decision on whether or not to allow the wind farm to go ahead lies with the Scottish Executive and they will have to take into account that as well as hundreds of individual objections to the proposal, Scottish Borders Council, East Lothian Council and Scottish Natural Heritage still oppose the amended proposal.
Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Euan Robson will be seeking guidance from the Minister about a public inquiry, pointing out that the level of objections are such that “it’s something that should now be discussed in that kind of forum”.
In September 2005 SBC councillors followed the recommendation of their planning officials to ask the Scottish Executive to reject the original application, but despite the council’s planning officials now recommending that the committee support the application councillors would not be swayed and the vote against it was even greater than first time around.
Explaining their reasons for now supporting the wind farm at Fallago Rig officials said in their report: “On balance, and after considering all relevant material considerations, it is concluded that whilst there would still be some concerns about possible impact on the landscape character of this part of the Lammermuir Hills and also with respect to potential cumulative impact, that these do not outweigh the reasons to support the proposal.”
Lobbying councillors to go with the officials’ recommendation, Duns and District North Councillor John Elliot said at the meeting: “There are those in my ward who are against this development but even in the community council area within which this windfarm will be built such people are in the minority.
“I thank the anti-windfarm lobby for achieving deferral of this decision as today the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its long-anticipated ‘Fourth Assessment Report’. This will provide the most compelling evidence yet of the human cause of climate change and its devastating impacts.
“Unless we take urgent action to combat climate change we will experience dramatic changes to our environment and landscape. Rejecting every windfarm proposal as the anti-windfarm lobby would have us do is the opposite of a ‘win-win’ situation ““ it is ‘lose-lose’.
“The anti-windfarm lobby would be better occupied encouraging governments to widen their approach to climate change mitigation, if they are truly concerned about our environment.”
However, committee members expressed concern at the “scatter gun approach” to wind farm applications, Councillor Catriona Bhatia asking why the Scottish Executive isn’t providing guidance as to how many a region could reasonably be expected to have and detailing what the Borders’s contribution is to the 40% renewable energy figure set by the Executive.
Councillor Miles Browne (Earlston, Gordon and District) said: “I am seeing windmills all around me and I think this is the main problem. We are issuing permits to put up windmills everywhere and soon we won’t even be having discussions about it, it will be so normal.
“I think instead of having diverse windmill sites all over the Borders we should concentrate them and make sure the ones we have given permission for are built.
“Any minute now the Borders is going to look like Holland with windmills everywhere.”
Agreeing, Councillor Douglas Younger added: ” I don’t believe that the fundamentals have changed enough to make me change my mind.
“There are concerns about global warming but far too much emphasis has been placed on onshore wind.”
Concerned about the cumulative effect of wind farms in the Lammermuirs Councillor George Russell said: “Planning guidance doesn’t say Berwickshire has to carry an unreasonable amount of windfarms.”
Councillor Andrew Thomson who was in favour of the development said: “The turbines have been reduced by 14 and they have reconfigured the site to remove turbines from the skyline. I think they have moved a long way and I support this.”
“We in the Borders have a great record of supplying windfarm,” said Councillor Jim Fullarton (Chirnside and District).
But concerned that the Lammermuirs would become an industrial landscape Councillor Fullarton added: “I think we have got to turn this down, this has got to go to a public inquiry.”
A statement issued by Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council after the meeting reads: “We are absolutely delighted at the decision by the SBC councillors to maintain their objection to the Fallago Rig wind turbines. It is difficult for politicians to go against the recommendation of their officials, but their decision to do so has largely restored our belief in local democracy.
“The level of debate was impressive and hopefully signals a change to a more informed discussion about the impact windfarms can, or cannot, make on the climate change issues which concern us all.
“The council’s objection will likely prompt a Public Inquiry. We welcome this opportunity to debate these matters and to participate in an educated examination of national policy and its local impact.
“The community council has witnessed a succession of approvals for commercial wind turbine developments in the Lammermuirs and feel that enough is enough. We simply do not believe in a policy that says we can save the environment by destroying part of the best of it.”
Dr David Long, chair of Gordon and Westruther Community Council: “We are delighted that at least the council are standing by their original decision.
“I feel the local people have made their point although we now have to leave it to the Scottish Executive.
“I can see why the Lammermuirs are attractive to windfarm developers because they are close to England and close to the Torness power line but local people feel that other things are just as important.
“We are very much in favour of renewable energy but we would rather see small local schemes that will help local people cut their fuel bills as well as cut carbon dioxide emissions.”
Following the committee’s decision, Christopher Wilkins of North British Windpower said: “North British Windpower has always believed that Fallago Rig is an excellent site for a wind farm.
“As the Scottish Borders landscape architect has said: ‘It is unlikely that there are many other sites in the Borders, or indeed in Scotland, that can accommodate such a large wind farm with so little impact upon sensitive receptors.’
“Last Friday was also the day that climate change was universally accepted as the gravest crisis facing the world. Climate change is a very real threat, as is security of supply. Fallago Rig can help with both: no carbon emissions and no need to import from Russia or elsewhere.”
08 February 2007