A £40 million plan to build a wind farm in Midlothian has been put in doubt after council chiefs unveiled plans to clamp down on the number and height of turbines.
Energy giant E.ON UK wants to build 18 wind turbines with a maximum height of 102 metres at the popular Auchencorth Moss beauty spot near Penicuik.
The project would provide an alternative source of power for 22,000 homes but has attracted fierce opposition from locals who have lodged 2337 objections against the development.
This led Midlothian Council and Scottish Natural Heritage to commission a wider study into the impact of wind farms on Midlothian’s landscape, which has recommended that a number of restrictions are imposed.
The study concludes there is nowhere suitable in Midlothian for wind turbines over a height of 30 metres, or for more than five of them in one location.
E.ON today said it stood by the merits of its planning application, but the Penicuik Environmental Protection Association – which led much of the opposition to the scheme – welcomed the study’s outcome. John Thomson, the group’s spokesman, said: “This is excellent news and vindicates what the group has been saying all along.
“We are not anti-wind farm, we are against locating wind turbines in such an environmentally sensitive location.
“I hope this will kill off E.ON’s planning application, but we will have to wait and see.
“I am delighted the council took the time to carry out this study because it was important that we got an understanding of the consequences of this development and others.”
The land earmarked for the wind farm is on a country estate owned by Sir Robert Clerk, and is a designated site of special scientific interest, containing a bog with rare types of moss and plant life.
It is near Gladhouse Reservoir, which attracts large numbers of a rare breed of geese.
Last year, celebrated TV botanist David Bellamy joined the campaign against the wind farm, labelling the plans “international vandalism”.
Campaigners have also claimed that Sir Walter Scott is on their side, after the great novelist once described a view across the Pentlands from Midlothian as one of the most striking scenes he had ever seen.
A spokeswoman for E.ON said: “The study is more than 100 pages long and we are still digesting its contents but look forward to meeting the council to discuss the implications of the study.
“We still believe our development is appropriate for this site and believe in the benefits of clean, green energy creation.”
Scottish Natural Heritage was one of the main objectors to the Auchencorth scheme last year, claiming views to the Pentland Hills would be adversely affected by the tall turbines.
A Midlothian Council spokeswoman said: “Cabinet will today consider a report on the recently completed landscape capacity study for wind turbine development in Midlothian.
“Future planning applications involving applications for wind turbines will be assessed on the basis of development plan policy and other material considerations, including national guidance, policy and advice on renewable energy and the landscape capacity study.”
The study and recommendations will be considered at a Midlothian Council meeting today.
By Andrew Picken
20 March 2007
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