Controversial plans to build a wind farm at one of the Borders’ best known beauty spots have been thrown out this week – despite a last-gasp bid by developers to have the decision delayed.
Swedish firm Vattenfall Wind Power – one of Europe’s leading energy companies – applied to Scottish Borders Council for permission to build 12 turbines at Minch Moor near Innerleithen. It included plans to fell more than 300 hectares of forest.
However, after a local planning officer recommended the plans for refusal due to visual impact, the developers appealed for more time to address concerns.
That plea was ignored by councillors on the local authority’s planning committee, who had earlier visited the site, which straddles the Southern Upland Way – the country’s only coast to coast footpath. And, on Monday, they unanimously rejected the plans.
Welcoming the announcement this week, local Councillor Gavin Logan said: “We all support wind farms in the right place. This clearly is the wrong place and wind farm developers should think more carefully before they scatter planning applications around our Borders like confetti.”
The meeting heard the turbines, which could produce up to 28MW of electricity, would be seen from as far apart as Selkirk, Cardrona, Innerleithen and Traquair, if the plans were approved.
And concerns were raised over the cumulative impact of building the development so close to the wind farm at nearby Broadmeadows.
“It is clear from the correspondence over the years that there has been significant concerns about the environmental impact of this proposed wind farm development and I share these concerns,” Councillor Logan continued.
“There is a growing body of literature that suggests that we consistently underestimate the effects of wind farms on birds and other forms of wildlife. The popular osprey watches at Kailzie and Glentress are testament to an important tourist attraction.
“However, I agree with the officer’s main reason for rejecting this application has to be the cumulative visual impact and importantly the impact on this particular landscape.
“The Southern Upland Way passes very close to the proposed wind farm site and is a major tourist attraction in this part of the Borders. The construction period will take over a year and will have hugely detrimental effect on tourist based businesses in Walkerburn and Innerleithen. Local hotels, B&Bs, self catering establishments and other tourist based businesses are holding their own at this difficult time. Any recovery to this disruption to their trade will take years. Some may not survive
“Most visitors to this part of the Borders come to enjoy our hills and scenery. The report has described very well the cumulative and sequential impact this proposal will have. The last thing hill walkers, bikers and pony trekkers want to see when they come to enjoy the remoteness and beauty of this part of Tweeddale and the Yarrow Valley is 12 industrial structures planted in around 700 acres of clear felled forestry.”
It is unclear whether the applicant intends to appeal the decision. However, Berwickshire Councillor Jim Fullarton, pointed out the Scottish Government had overturned previous decisions on wind farm applications, despite concerns over the impact they could have on the local landscape. He said: “I can see an appeal coming and these stupid government targets being used as a defence.”
But Hawick Councillor George Turnbull argued that government targets were “not stupid” and were put in place to protect future generations.
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