A resounding rejection of the proposal to build a windfarm on Coldingham Moor was made at a packed public meeting in the village on Friday night.
Despite an overwhelming majority voting against the plan to build 22 turbines at Drone Hill, the developers – PM Renewables – this week said that the meeting was not a true representation of local feeling.
The meeting was convened by the community council and over 120 people attended, including representatives of other community councils in East Berwickshire and moor and village residents.
Fears were voiced that the windfarm would badly affect tourism and also cause misery for nearby residents.
“This is not an isolated area as there are lots of houses and farms on the moor and the road is the main tourist route down the coast,” said protestor George Matthews who lives less than a mile away from the proposed site.
A retired building control officer and chartered surveyor, Mr Matthews said he had never seen “such a hideous proposal”.
Although PM Renewables has agreed to shorten the turbines from 100m to 75m, Mr Matthews pointed out that they were still ten times the size of a telegraph pole and said they would be a huge eyesore.
“The road through Coldingham Moor is called the road to tranquility but it won’t be if this goes ahead,” said Mr Matthews.
“The tourist trade will be badly affected and it will have a terrible effect on the quality of life of people living here,” he added.
At the meeting, moor residents asked the developers if they would be compensated for an expected drop in their property prices but were told that would not happen although a £1 million sweetener has been promised to the community.
“According to a Mori survey property prices can go down by as much as 54 per cent which is extrememly worrying,” said Mr Matthews. “If it does go ahead they should have some provision for compensating people.”
Serious concerns were also raised about proposed access routes.
“They may have to build new roads to bring in kit and there is a fear that this will create a Coldingham bypass as well as destroy long-standing woods and trees,” said community council chairman Ged Hearn.
“As far as the development itself was concerned people were keen to point out that it would be set amongst houses and a lot of properties are directly affected.
“Only two people spoke in favour of the development and when it came to the vote it was overwhelmingly against.”
The vote was the opposite to one at a public meeting held by the community council 18 months ago when the development was first mooted.
Mr Hearn pointed out that Friday night’s meeting had been better publicised and was better attended.
He added that a number of people had been angered by a meeting held by a consultancy company on behalf of PM Renewables.
“They selected targeted individuals to a public meeting and they were paid around £30 to attend,” explained Mr Hearn. “That upset a lot of people.”
Simon Morton, a company director of PM Renewables, said this week that the idea of paying those who attended was to compensate for their time and expenses.
“I understand that caused a bit of discomfort so with hindsight it might not have been such a good plan,” he admitted.
Mr Morton said they had employed consultancy firm, Holyrood Consultations, to carry out an independent survey for them and it had been their idea to pay people to attend the meeting.
“People were invited completely randomly to get a good cross section of the community living within a 10 mile radius of the site,” he explained.
Mr Morton said around 100 people attended the meeting at the golf club and the majority were in favour of the windfarm.
A telephone survey was also carried out and Mr Morton said that around 70 per cent of people were in favour with the remaining 30 per cent either neutral or against the farm.
He added that public meetings such as the one on Friday night were “useful” as it gave people the opportunity to ask questions of the developers but “do not give a proper idea of who is in favour.”
“A public meeting like that is attended by those opposed to development and we expected that,” he said.
However Mr Hearn said that in view of the vote taken at the public meeting on Friday, the community council would now be asking Scottish Borders Council to vote against the proposal when it comes before the planning committee in the summer.
If the council does vote against the issue it would then go before the Scottish Executive for the final ruling.
Local councillor Michael Cook, who was at Friday’s meeting, said: “The strength of feeling against the farm, particularly from the residents of Coldingham Moor, was plain.
“I have listened to what has been said and will take that on board if I am involved in any deliberation on the proposal at the council.”
Berwickshire development control officer Alasdair Maclean said: “You cannot put up turbines without them having an impact and the question is whether the impact is reasonable or not.
“There are more properties around this location than other applications we have had so it is potentially more intrusive although some poeple would say that farms are more intrusive in a wildlife setting.”
5 April 2007
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