A four-turbine windfarm – the first in the south of Scotland to be constructed and run by its host community – could earn Selkirk up to £1.75million a year.
But the siting of the proposed development, on the burgh’s prominent and historic north common, has put it on a collision course with common riding traditionalists.
For the turbines, high on the hillside of Peat Law and Linglie Hill, and capable of generating 6MW of electricity, would tower over the route taken by the town’s Standard Bearer and 400 riders on the traditional riding of the marches in June: one of Europe’s largest equestrian gatherings.
“This is hallowed ground to the people of Selkirk and to even think about despoiling it in this way is a scandal,” said Ex-Standard Bearer Peter Scott.
However a consultant’s report has confirmed that the hillside of Peat Law and Linglie Hill is, across Selkirk’s Common Good assets, the preferred site for a small windfarm and has “significant wind generation development potential”. Even a three-turbine facility could, says the report, yield annual income of £1.3million from sales of power to the National Grid.
The study, details of which were revealed to Monday’s meeting of the community council, was commissioned by retired GP Dr Lindsay Neil in his role as chairman of the Selkirk Regeneration Group. The pre-feasibility report by Emtec was underwritten by a £1,000 grant from the Energy Savings Trust.
The site is part of Linglie Farm, one of three hillfarms which form part of the town’s Common Good assets.
Conceding there was likely to be some public condemnation of the proposal, Mr Neil, who also chairs the community council, said any decision on progressing the project would “lie entirely with the people of Selkirk”.
A public meeting will be held in the town’s Victoria Hall, probably in September, to decide if a full feasibility study should be ordered.
Invited to attend that gathering will be Alan Hobbett, the renewable expert closely involved with the creation of Scotland’s first community windfarm on the island of Gigha where grants paid for about two thirds of the capital cost. A trust was formed to borrow the balance at commercial rates.
“The attraction of such a scheme is that income and profit goes not to private companies, but straight back into the community,” said Mr Neil.
“I commissioned the study because windfarms are going up whether we like it or not. Taking the lead in this way gives Selkirk the chance to control size and location and, of course, reap the benefits. At present the income derived from our Common Good assets is negligible, yet so much regeneration is required in the town.”
Scottish Borders Councillor Kenneth Gunn noted the Emtec report did not rule out the possibility of a windfarm on the town’s south common, near the Gala Rig. This would be less conspicuous and in an area already dominated by the television masts at Lindean and Ashkirk.
“A community windfarm is a brilliant idea, but, at a time when Selkirk
has little left other than tourism, the north common is definitely the wrong place,” said Mr Gunn.
Spokesmen for the Common Riding Trust and the Ex-Standard Bearers’ Association confirmed their organisations knew nothing about the windfarm plans. Also in the dark is the Selkirk Common Good Working Group, comprising Mr Gunn and the other two Selkirkshire councillors on SBC.
Group chairwoman Vicky Davidson felt Dr Neil had “gone quite far enough without consulting anyone”.
Apart from common riding interests, the Linglie Farm development is, concedes the report, in an aviation radar exclusion zone and could also impede the Ministry of Defence’s seismic measuring facility at Eskdalemuir which is equipped to monitor shockwaves from the detonation of nuclear weapons.
“This project is at a very early stage,” said Dr Neil. “What we need now is a full and wide-ranging public debate.”
By Andrew Keddie
12 July 2007
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