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Relief at rejection of 'worst possible site for a windfarm'

It took councillors just 20 minutes to unanimously reject one of the most contentious windfarms ever proposed in the region, writes Andrew Keddie.

Around 25 of the 300 people who formally objected to Windjen’s plans for eight giant turbines atop Dunion Hill and Black Law near Jedburgh packed into the public benches at Newtown on Monday to witness the decision by Scottish Borders Council’s development control committee.

They heard that the location, 1,000ft above sea level and with sweeping views across Teviotdale, The Merse, the Jed Water valley and the Cheviots, was “the worst possible site for a windfarm”.

And chairman, Councillor Jock Houston, revealed that, nearly two years ago, Windjen was told by council planners its proposal breached no fewer than seven SBC policies drawn up to protect the landscape from inappropriate visual intrusion.

The company, however, persisted with its bid for eight turbines – more than 100 metres from base to blade tip – which would each generate 2.5MW and be connected to the National Grid via a substation and underground cables.

As revealed in TheSouthern last week, SBC officials were still scathing in their condemnation of the application.

“This development will be extremely visible and demonstrably damage the character of the landscape,” said senior planning officer Ian Aikman. “It may have been acceptable if the site had been screened by surrounding hills. It is true we have approved larger windfarm installations, but nothing on a ridge so exposed.”

His views chimed with those of the community councils of Lanton, Hobkirk, Jed Valley, Jedburgh and Denholm, as well as the Dunion Hill Conservation Group (DHCG) which was set up to fight the planning bid.

They were also echoed by elected members who, last Friday week, had visited the site, two miles south of Jedburgh and part of Bedrule Farm.

During Monday’s debate, Councillor Jim Brown (Jedburgh & District) said:

“It would be difficult to find a worse location aesthetically in the central Borders. The installation would be seen from Carter Bar and would be in stark contrast to the beauty of Ruberslaw [above Denholm].

“If this is permitted, it will open the floodgates for any site in our region to become a windfarm.”

Councillor Donald Moffat (Mid Berwickshire) said the site visit had confirmed his worst fears: “This is an awful site for a windfarm and we should kick this into touch. The impact on tourism and wildlife would be devastating.”

The only crumb of comfort for Windjen, which now has the right to lodge an appeal with the Scottish Government, was the submission of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which felt the impact on landscape character “did not justify a formal objection”.

This irked Councillor Neil Calvert (Tweeddale West): “I’m surprised and disappointed with the SNH stance.

By Andrew Keddie

The Southern Reporter

13 September 2007