Coldingham group claim livelihoods could be destroyed.
A group campaigning against a proposed Coldingham wind farm have said that livelihoods could be destroyed following a study which revealed that wind farms would damage tourism in the Borders and Scotland.
Coldingham STAG made the comment after research by Glasgow Caledonian University showed that the Borders could lose £1.7 million and 81 jobs in tourism if the Scottish Government’s energy target – 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be renewable by 2015 – was met through the introduction of wind farms.
However, these losses are described as a “worst case scenario” in the report and wind energy associations say any job losses would be offset by new employment associated with renewable energy.
The Scottish Government commissioned study follows the conclusion of the three week Public Inquiry into an application for a 57 turbine development at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills. A verdict on the proposal from the Scottish Government Reporter is due within weeks, as is the commencement of a similar inquiry into a proposed 22 turbine farm on Coldingham Moor.
Campaign group Coldingham STAG believes the report adds weight to their argument that a wind farm at Coldingham Moors – originally turned down – would have a determential effect on tourism in the area, citing the nearby Highview Caravan Park as one of the reasons the proposed scheme was reject by SBC councillors.
A spokesperson added: “This report adds weight to our argument that Coldingham Moor is simply the wrong site for a windfarm.
“Tourism is hugely important to Berwickshire and more and more people are reliant on it. The unspoilt coastline around Coldingham and St Abbs is one of the jewels in the Borders crown.
“Scottish Borders Tourist Board says that scenery and landscape are the most important attractions for visitors to the Scottish Borders, while a public opinion survey by Visit Scotland found that 26 per cent of tourists would be unlikely to return to an area with wind turbines. For local people to simply see their livelihoods destroyed is not acceptable.”
Berwickshire and Roxburgh MSP John Lamont criticised Jim Mather, Scottish Government Tourism Minister, for welcoming the report’s findings and called for a national strategy to enable greater compatibility between tourism and wind farm developers.
He said: “It is unbelievable that the Government is welcoming this report which shows that the tourism industry is being damaged by the development of wind farms.
“With a number of windfarm planning applications still outstanding in the Borders, it is important that due consideration is given to all aspects of the impact of wind farms on communities.
“We should have a balanced energy supply, but this must not be to the detriment of local communities or the regional economy.
“This is just the latest evidence that shows the harm that wind farms do to the tourist industry and it is extraordinary that the Tourism Minister is happy with the situation.”
However, tourism chiefs in the Borders played down any possible financial and personnel losses that wind farms in the region could cause.
Pamela McMahon, area director for VisitScotland Borders said: “VisitScotland welcomes the Scottish Government research, it shows that if the tourism sectors and renewable energy sectors work together both can grow and contribute to sustainable economic growth. In addition, it provides good practical guidance for planners on assessing the potential impact of a proposed windfarm on tourism, which will help ensure future windfarms are sensitively located.”
The overall loss to the Scottish economy if energy targets via wind farms are met by 2015 is estimated to be £4.7 million, claims the report.
However, the report states this figure only represents an 0.18 per cent fall in tourism revenues for Scotland.
Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, Jason Ormiston said that the losses would be insignificant compared to the “billions” the Scottish renewables industry would be worth by 2020.
He added: “This report confirms the impact on tourism of sensible wind farm development is minimal, if not zero, and if there are any losses to the Scottish economy they would be more than offset by establishing a renewables industry in Scotland.”
The effect of a wind farm development on tourism was named as an important consideration in the Fallago Rig Public Inquiry last month.
Vice chairman of Cranshaws Community Council, Mike Rowley, said that tourism in the Lammermuir Hills – mainly through walking, riding, cycling and motor sports – relied heavily on the unspolit landscapes.
Mr Rowley said at the time of the inquiry: “Tourism is a vital part of the fragile Borders economy. The risk to the present tourism industry and its future should be recognised.”
However, Paul Cullen, representing PM Renewables bid at Fallago Rig, said there was no connection between the presence of a wind farm development and a loss of tourism revenue in the same locality.
The study involved interviewing 380 visitors to the four different areas included in the report, the Borders being one of them. Another 600 UK and 100 US residents were also asked for their opinions.
At present, six wind farm sites have been constructed or approved for development in the Scottish Borders, while seven are still at the application stage with SBC.
The council’s structure plan includes in it: “Development proposals which are likely to have a significant and sustained adverse impact on tourism will not be permitted.”
By Simon Duke
26 March 2008
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