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Windfarm to be decided on solo site visit  

Credit:  David O'Leary, www.peeblesshirenews.com 25 April 2011 ~~

The region’s longest running planning dispute is to be decided behind closed doors.

And a lack of a public inquiry into the controversial Minch Moor windfarm plans has angered many campaigners.

Scottish Borders councillors rejected the initial bid for the 12 turbine windfarm last August – an application initially submitted by developer Vattenfall in 2003.

Over 300 letters of objection were submitted against the plans which would see 305 hectares of forest being cleared to make room for the 67-metre turbines.

Council planners and councillors sided with the objectors ruling that the development would be detrimental to the environment and have a negative impact on the landscape, as well as contravening structure and local plans.

The decision by the local authority was immediately appealed by Vattenfall.

And it was expected that Government reporters, who determine the appeal, would call a public hearing before making any decisions.

But reporter Robert Maslin has now decided to make a determination on the basis of written submissions and an unaccompanied site visit to hills above Walkerburn and Innerleithen.

Mr Maslin’s decision has been met with great concern by local parliamentary candidate Jeremy Purvis, who said: “This sounds fairly extraordinary for such a high profile case such as this to be dealt with in such a way.

“All this does is reinforce the view that the democratic views of local authorities and the people they represent are increasingly being overridden by the Scottish Government. There is increasingly more and more local anger as a result of such decisions.

“And there will only be more such applications for windfarms in the Borders, as this constituency generates twice the wind energy of any other. Decisions such as this therefore do nothing to soothe fears regarding a democratic and openly accountable process.”

Walkerburn Community Council chairman, Dr Steven Henderson, is also angry that the objectors won’t get their day at a public inquiry.

He said: “We await the reporter’s decision with bated breath but the fact there will be no public inquiry doesn’t bode well. I’d imagine he already has his mind made up.

“I just can’t see why he wouldn’t hold even a public meeting to gauge the feeling of local people in either Innerleithen or Walkerburn.”

However Colin Kerr, chair of Walkerburn Action Group, who has vociferously opposed the application since its submission feels that maybe enough has already been done.

He added: “We have delayed this application for many years now and have been successful in swaying local support away from it.

“The fact there will be no inquiry, means we can’t influence the reporter any further but this is also true for Vattenfall.

“We’ve put a sound case forward so now it’s up to the reporter.”

A decision on the Minch Moor appeal is expected next month.

Source:  David O'Leary, www.peeblesshirenews.com 25 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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