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Winds of change in Lammermuir Hills

Scottish Government ministers now have the reporter’s recommendation on whether or not to approve the 48 turbine wind farm at Fallago Rig on the western edge of the Lammermuir hills.

It took the Government over 18 months to make public the findings of the first public inquiry held in 2008, the reporter recommending refusal on the grounds of objections made by the Ministry of Defence.

However, before her findings were made public the Ministry of Defence withdrew their objections and local residents opposing the wind farm demanded sight of the findings of the first public inquiry and insisted on being part of a second public inquiry into the planning application.

The second public inquiry was completed in April this year but five months on all the Scottish Government will say is: “Ministers are considering the findings of the public local inquiry and will announce a decision in due course.”

And while a decision is awaited about Fallago Rig wind farm a fourth phase of the ever increasing Crystal Rig wind farm, also in the Lammermuirs, is being considered.

An environmental impact assessment scoping report has been produced by Natural Power Consultants on behalf of Fred Olsen Renewables for between nine and 18 turbines, for Crystal Rig phase 3.

The report says: “Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd, as developers of Crystal Rig Phase 11 and 11a projects, have identified a potential opportunity for a further phase of Crystal Rig. This opportunity has arisen in order to make efficient use of available grid connection infrastructure in contributing to government renewable energy targets.

“The opportunity area is located to the north of the consented and constructed scheme, falling within East Lothian.

“It is envisaged that any additional turbines consented as part of this application should be complementary to the existing developments, would follow similar construction methodology and would be operated as part of the larger Crystal Rig wind farm.”

The original Crystal Rig wind farm was 25 turbines producing 62 MW. Phase 11 saw a further 52 turbines (21 in the Scottish Borders and 31 in East Lothian) connecting directly into the 400kV line that intersects the site and which originates from Torness Power Station.

This grid connection has a capacity of up to 200MW, substantially more that the 164MW originally identified, prompting applications for Crystal Rig 11a, Crystal Rig 3 and also providing spare capacity which is being considered by Community Windpower who want to expand the neighbouring Aikengall site in East Lothian by 22 turbines.

Nine turbines were approved for Crystal Rig 11a by Scottish Ministers in July 2008 bringing the total to 86 and if Fred Olsen Renewables are successful in getting planning permission for their latest expansion the number of turbines at Crystal Rig could go over 100.

The scoping document for the latest Crystal Rig extension goes on: “The proposed extension would be on the northern side of the existing Crystal Rig 11 development. The site is 2.5km south of Lothian Edge and 3km north of the summit of Birk Cleugh Hill. The development area would be located 3km south east of East Linton and 10km south of Dunbar.”

Crystal Rig 3 wind farm turbines would be similar in design and size to those on the consented Crystal Rig 11 and 11a schemes with a maximum height of 125m.

Across the Borders there are 163 operational wind turbines, 92 approved but not yet built, 103 pending, 30 refused, and 48 pending appeal with scoping proposals for another 16 wind farms with a combined total of 220 turbines.

The area has already approved more megawatts of wind energy power than any other Scottish authority and SBC’s planning committee concluded earlier this year that the Lammermuirs had reached saturation point as far as wind turbines were concerned.

In June this year, 350 people who oppose the further expansion of wind turbines in the Lammermuirs took to the hills for a protest march and were joined by TV personality and environmentalist David Bellamy who said: ” You have to marvel at the passion and determination of the local people here.

“They will not give up.”

And he added: “The outcome of the public inquiry into this wind farm will be a watershed moment.”