Developers state their case for Lammermuirs plan
This week a public inquiry started into a controversial application which, if given the go ahead, could have a lasting impact on the Berwickshire landscape.
An application by North British Windpower Ltd for a windfarm at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuirs first came before Scottish Borders Council in September 2005 and was rejected by members.
A second application which saw a reduction in the number of the 110 metre high turbines from 62 to 48 was considered by the council in February last year but again failed to find favour.
Objectors feel that the skyline has already become saturated thanks to windfarm developments at Crystal Rig and Dunlaw.
The key issue is that both council members and residents of the surrounding community feel that the Lammermuir Hills are an area of great landscape value and therefore not suitable for another development.
This concept of landscape value very much dominated proceedings on the first day of the public enquiry on Tuesday in Duns Volunteer Hall.
In the chair was Reporter Karen Heywood, Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals for the Scottish Government. The bodies represented included Scottish Borders Council, East Lothian Council, Black Mountain Farms and North British Windpower.
The first witness in the enquiry was Michael Wood, a landscape architect, appearing on behalf of the applicant.
In his precognition he discussed the character and sensitivity of the Lammermuirs.
He commended the rich heritage of natural and archaeological features and distinctive visual qualities boasted by the area in and around Fallago Rig but said that overall the characteristics of the central Lammermuir plateau related extremely well to a windfarm development and added that in his opinion, in terms of landscape value the area couldn’t be rated as any more than medium.
He went on to say that the Lammermuir’s low sensitivity to a windfarm development had been clearly demonstrated and added that the application didn’t cross ‘the threshold of acceptability’.
Representing Scottish Borders Council, solicitor Muala McKinley challenged Mr Wood and asked him if he accepted that a windfarm would have a massive change on the area. He said he did but suggested the fact that an electricity pylon already covered some of the skyline compromised people’s perception of how remote the area was.
Mr Wood continued by saying that the fact that the Fallago Rig site was close to settled farms, towns and villages which also made it difficult to label as being ‘totally wild’. However, Ms McKinley said that it was an area where a sense of remoteness and naturalness existed and added that it could be argued that the land was of increased value because of its close proximity to recreation.
Mr Wood faced similar questions from Ms Ferguson on behalf of East Lothian Council and John Campbell QC, representing Black Mountain Farms and other objectors. Mr Campbell QC echoed Ms McKinley’s sentiments and suggested that a rural landscape formed by natural forces is inheritently sensitive to a windfarm-style development.
In contrast, drawing on the area’s man-made features, Paul Cullen QC, for North British Windpower, asked Michael Wood if the existing pylon was a significant feature of the central Lammermuir landscape, to which he replied: “Yes.”
And Mr Wood’s final response was to agree with Mr Cullen QC’s stance that the application site satisfied a number of characteristics suited to low sensitivity in relation to a potential windfarm.
The public inquiry will continue over the next few weeks and representatives from a wide range of organisations including the Ministry of Defence will give their evidence.
By Simon Duke
6 February 2008
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