Residents of the Borthwick valley are said to be “stunned” this week that the Scottish Government has given the go-ahead for a wind farm at Langhope Rig.
Despite more than 370 letters of objection and a refusal by the council’s planning committee, a Scottish Government Reporter has upheld an appeal lodged by energy company Airtricity, and granted permission for 10 wind turbines.
Scottish Borders Council’s voted last July to reject the application – proposed on land located past Blawearie, above Whitslade – on the grounds that it would have an unacceptable impact on the landscape.
Although this was a decision which backed a local campaign, it opposed planning officers’ original recommendations and led to a public enquiry at Selkirk Rugby Club.
But after studying all the submissions, the Reporter has finally ruled that the development can go ahead.
Councillor Jock Houston, SBC’s planning committee chairman who voted in favour of the application, stated this week: “I have to say that I thought it highly unlikely that an appeal by Airtricity would be turned down.
“But this represents a huge defeat for the council and for the hundreds of objectors, although it vindicates the original position of the council’s planning officers.”
Councillor Houston also said that the Reporter carried out an exhaustive examination – which included cycling from Ashkirk to Roberton and back – and in the report uses phases such as “not credible” in reference to evidence from objectors.
However, for Roberton resident Deborah Bohn, who has fought tirelessly against the plans since 2006, the decision spells disaster for the area.
The secretary of former campaign group AWFAL (Against a Wind farm at Langhope), told The Hawick News: “I am absolutely devastated, and feel heartstruck. The whole community is stunned.
“Between the Borthwick, Ashkirk and Ettrick valleys, a core of people have put in two years, and thousands of hours, of work. People will realise what a mistake has been made, but it will be too late for some of the beautiful areas that have been spoilt.”
And referring to the Langhope Rig site, which is overlooked by poet Will Ogilvie’s statue, Mrs Bohn went on: “This area is characterised by outstanding beauty and history – industrial wind farms should go in industrial areas.
“It is a travesty of democracy that there can be such public opposition to an application like this, and it counts, apparently, for very little in the face of the ill-informed and largely symbolic targets set by the Scottish Government.”
She added: “This is the first intrusion into the central Borders. We will have heavy traffic on a beautiful country road, trees will have to be cut down to allow the 63m-wide turbines to get past, and this huge industrial complex will be built, with the roads and buildings that go with it.”
But according to Simon Heyes, Airtricity’s general manager for Great Britain, the construction of the development will generate an expected £25m in local contracts, and he says they are committed to supporting the area.
By Sarah Williamson
23 May 2008