Scottish Borders Council’s new planning committee faces a daunting task when a controversial wind farm application comes up for determination.
Despite 342 objections being submitted, elected members will be asked by their own officials to approve the £6million 10-turbine development at Langhope Rig, four miles west of Ashkirk, on Monday.
It will be one of the first major windfarm applications to come before the council since it rejected a similar development at Halkburn near Galashiels in 2005.
Last year, that rebuff was overturned after applicants Wind Prospect Ltd appealed to the Scottish Executive which is committed to meeting renewable energy targets.
The Holyrood mandarins cited the lack of local dissent to the Halkburn project.But in contrast to Halkburn, the Ashkirk development has incurred a welter of objections. Notable dissenters include Buccleuch Estates, Lord and Lady Polworth of Harden, and Lilliesleaf, Ashkirk and Midlem Community Council.
Deborah Bonn, a member of an action group formed to fight the plans, said: “People who have been coming to the Borders for many years are appalled at the prospect of the landscape being dominated by structures three times as high as Hawick Town Hall.
“A windfarm at Langhope would, in changing every view for 40 miles around, strongly discourage tourism for the forseeable future.”
She said many residents are also concerned about the impact on the country road network, particularly the road to Roberton from the A7 via Howcleuch, Greenbanks and Alemoore, which was unsuited to bearing heavy traffic during construction.
But Greenock-based renewables company Airtricity has cited a community council survey of residents living within a 10km radius of the site. Of the 138 questionnaires (out of 238) returned, 73 people or 53 per cent supported the wind farm.
And the firm has moved to quell fears over visual impact.
“One of the main reasons we chose this site was its limited visibility in the Borders area,” said the firm’s Colin Palmer.
“The windfarm will not be visible from the closest villages of Ashkirk, Roberton on Ettrickbridge. The fact it is surrounded by rolling hills will restrict visibility from the wider Borders area.”
Airtricity claims construction, which will begin next year if consent is granted on Monday, will last 10 months and support up to 70 full-time jobs.
Planning officials, while supporting the project, are set to attach around 30 standard conditions to ensure that wildlife, including the rare Black Grouse, is protected. It is also demanding that all cables linking turbines and sub-stations are installed underground.
The Ale Valley has long been associated with the poet Will H. Ogilvie and celebrated in his verse ‘The Hill Road to Roberton’.
The Will H. Ogilvie Memorial Committee has tabled an objection to the wind farm, urging councillors to “leave our majestic Borders landscape undisturbed”.
By Andrew Keddie
28 June 2007
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