A planning application which has generated huge interest in Berwickshire and beyond has been recommended for refusal when it tops the agenda at a council meeting next week.
Although Scottish Borders Council’s Development Control Committee will have the final say when they meet on Monday, in his report the head of planning and building standards, Brian Frater, has recommended that the proposed windfarm development on Coldingham Moor, should go no further.
And this week, the applicant PM Renewables has expressed disappointment and shock at the news that their proposals haven’t found favour with planning officials.
Since being made public last year, the application has prompted a hotbed of opinion in Berwickshire and beyond. PM Renewables originally proposed the siting of 16 wind turbines on land at Drone Hill, each standing at a maximum height of 102 metres tall.
However, after some consultation the suggested height of the turbines was reduced to an upper limit of 76 metres, although this decrease paved the way for an increase in the number of turbines to 22.
It was expected that if given the go-ahead, the development would lie either side of the A1107, the popular tourist route linking Eyemouth and the A1 to the south to Cockburnspath and the A1 to the north.
Despite bodies such as Historic Scotland, Transport Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) having no real objections to the application, Mr Frater has highlighted a number of reasons as to why the windfarm shouldn’t be given the green light.
The deciding factor appears to be the adverse impact such a development would have on the Coldingham landscape. Not only was it ruled that the turbines would be highly visible to visitors to the area, the drastic effect on existing residents was also taken into account.
The fact that the proposal is sited in a ‘Coastal Moorland’ landscape was also something taken into account by planning and building standards.
As defined in the Borders Landscape Assessment of 1995, the aforementioned isn’t a landscape type where windfarm development is supported by Scottish Borders Council.
It is stated in the report, to be given to members of the Development and Control Committee, that for the above reasons and more the PM Renewables application is contrary to a range of council legislation, including the Scottish Borders Structure Plan, Berwickshire Local Plan 1994 and the Scottish Borders Local Plan, finalised in 2005.
And the view of Mr Frater was one shared by large numbers of people who opposed the potential development from the start.
The application generated well in excess of 500 responses, with the majority calling for it to be rejected. They cited a wide variety of reasons and opinions as to why the windfarm shouldn’t go ahead including: the adverse impact on the local tourist industry; the fact that the Borders is facing “undue pressure” for windfarm developments and these are having both a cumulative and sequential impact on the area; visibility even from the A1 would be dangerous with that road being notorious for accidents and one respondent went as far as saying that if the windfarm went ahead “many people will face a daily blight on their lives.”
Expressing disappointment at Mr Frater’s recommendation, Darrin Rooney, director of PM Renewables said: “Having only just received the planning officer’s report we have not had the chance to fully digest its contents, but we believe the main reason relates to the impact on the landscape. The turbines are far smaller than most other proposals, and importantly SNH, the council’s statutory consultee on landscape matters, does not object. Unlike many wind farm applications, Drone Hill has no objections from consultees so we find it simply astonishing that the planning officer has made this recommendation.
Simon Morton, fellow director of the company added “We are constantly reminded by the daily media headlines that climate change is the single biggest threat to humanity in the world today, and Scottish Borders Council has planning policies to encourage renewable energy developments.
“Only this week the Environment Agency has warned that current measures to adapt to a changing climate were “too little, too slowly”, and that a huge effort was needed to address the crisis. It warned that this is the biggest challenge to face the globe for many, many years and that the concerted, fast, integrated and above all, huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war are needed.”
He continued: “We first looked at the Drone Hill site because it was positively identified by SBC as a preferred area for wind farm development. Since then we have worked very hard to establish an environmentally positive project in keeping with the local area, we have listened to statutory consultees and the local community and we have encouraged and delivered on suggestions. This included a radical redesign using turbines far smaller than other developments proposed.
“We know that this is an excellent project, supported by an extensive consultation process. We are also pleased that we have maintained high levels of public support despite a campaign of misleading and inaccurate information from a small but vocal group of objectors. The decision is in the hands of the Development Control Committee members, and we remain hopeful that the council will send out a positive message by voting in favour of this project.”
By Simon Duke
7 November 2007