It is one of the last truly wild places in southern Scotland, its low-lying but dramatic hills inspiring the likes of Sir Walter Scott.
But, according to modern-day writer Richard Havers, the beauty of the Lammermuir Hills faces being scarred by numerous wind farms because there is no national strategy to ensure a fair distribution across the country.
While much of the recent focus on wind farms has centred around plans to build 176 turbines on Lewis, in the Western Isles, there are, at the moment, three small wind farms in the Lammermuir area. But five more schemes have been granted planning permission and two more are being considered.
All told, the Lammermuirs – the setting for Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor – could become home to a more than 260 turbines, or about 15 per cent of Scotland’s current total.
Mr Havers, a local campaigner who has written books with former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, said the situation highlighted the lack of an overall plan that would prevent an over-concentration in one area.
Wyman, a friend for many years, agreed while visiting the area and was moved to register his objection online to the largest of two proposals, which would see 48 turbines built at Fallago Rig, currently being considered by a public inquiry.
The Scottish Wild Land Group said the number of wind farms proposed for the Lammermuirs risked losing their character, while the John Muir Trust described the lack of a strategic plan to ensure the farms were located in the most sensible places as “one of the biggest mistakes” of the previous Scottish Executive administration.
Mr Havers, 56, said: “My argument has always been that the Lammermuirs have sort of been taken by stealth. In the Lammermuirs, it’s just creeping, creeping, creeping.
“My argument is not that wind farms per se are a bad thing. There’s obviously a need for renewable energy, there’s no question of that. I’m not a climate change denier, far from it.
“But there’s no real strategy for wind farms. Everything is taken on a one-by-one basis and here in the Lammermuirs we have this cumulative process going on.
“There’s seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking in all this. It as though people in central government don’t want to take responsibility.”
He said Wyman had come to the area for a week and they had gone out walking to engage in their hobby of metal detecting.
Wyman was sufficiently angered by the Fallago Rig plan that he made an official objection. “He just did the standard thing online,” said Mr Havers.
Alistair Cant, of the Scottish Wild Land Group, said: “We are certainly very concerned about the lack of a proper national strategy, positively directing them (developers] towards places where, environmentally and locationally, it’s better, but where there may not be so much wind.
“The Lammermuirs have hidden delights. If we get the whole lot covered by four, five, six wind farms, we are losing the character of these places. One does wonder why they can’t site wind farms away from these hills – in forestry land, for example.
“We are totally in favour of renewable energy, but it has to be sited sensibly.”
Helen McDade, of the John Muir Trust, which campaigns on landscape issues, believed wind farms were being sited on an “ad hoc” basis.
“It just depends where applications go in. There is no national strategy and it was one of the biggest mistakes of the previous administration,” she said.
“The cumulative effect can be taken into account in planning applications, but decisions are made on a decision-by-decision basis. Depending on which one comes up first, the worst one can get put through.
“A strategy for distributing them … it’s not something that has been looked at. It is being left to be picked up ad hoc by the planning system.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said there was “a sound national policy context for onshore wind developments”, adding that “cumulative impact is a consideration for any application”.
By Ian Johnston
1 March 2008
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