A Selkirkshire councillor says she will fight to achieve maximum financial benefit to the communities most affected by a huge wind farm near Ashkirk.
Councillor Vicky Davidson was reacting to the news that the Scottish Government has overruled local opposition and Scottish Borders Council by upholding the appeal of renewable energy company Airtricity who want to build a 10-turbine facility at Langhope Rig.
The going rate for such community compensation deals is £2,000 per megawatt which, in this case, would bring in annual revenue of £46,000.
Communities set to benefit include Ashkirk and Roberton as well as parts of the Ettrick Valley.
“I hope we can achieve better than that,” said Ms Davidson. “Any agreement has still to be tied down … and I will be working with the community councils to see if we can now move forward.”
But the so-called “community benefit” is cold comfort to the 380 objectors to the scheme and, particularly, to Deborah Bohn, secretary of the action group set up to fight the Airtricity proposal.
“This is basically a pitiful bribe,” said Mrs Bohn, whose group was launched two years ago when the firm applied for planning permission for its wind factory. The activists believed the tranquility of the scenic Ale Water Valley, famed as the favourite vista of Borders romantic poet Will Ogilvie, would be sacrificed on the altar of the Scottish Government’s policy on renewable energy.
Their hopes were raised last July when Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee voted 7-4 to refuse planning consent.
The firm appealed to Scottish ministers and a public enquiry was held earlier this year at Selkirk Rugby Club.
And this week came the news that the appeal had been upheld by Reporter William Patterson.
At 121-metres high from base to blade tip, the towers will be the largest ever constructed in the Borders. At full capacity, they will generate enough electricity for 13,000 homes and be linked to the national grid at Hawick.
The region now has 18 wind farms either operational or with planning consent to come on stream in the near future.
“Where is the democracy when our elected representatives on SBC and hundreds of letters of objections are ignored?” asked Mrs Bohn.
“Climate change is indeed real, but there are a huge number of options which do not involve the rare beauty of the central Borders being destroyed
“At the end of the day, people will realise what a mistake has been made, but it will be too late for some of the exquisite and unique areas that have been spoilt.”
Mrs Bohn’s comments were echoed by SBC’s environment spokesperson and Selkirkshire councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre who had railed impassionately against the proposal when it was debated by the council’s planning committee.
“Areas like the Borders are being asked to take too many wind farms – it’s like fly tipping,” she said. “Whether it’s rubbish or a bunch of turbines, people think they can just dump things on open space.”
A spokesman for Airtricity said he was “delighted” to have won the appeal.
23 May 2008