One of Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats has highlighted the danger of farmers and landowners in the Borders failing to withstand “the lure of wind farm riches”.
The warning comes from the Duke of Northumberland, who owns the Burncastle Estate near Lauder, in his response to a planning application for 12 wind turbines at Corsbie Moor, south east of the royal burgh.
The 54-year-old duke was ranked number 248 in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £315million.
The development will involve the use of land on Boon, Corsbie and Legerwood farms – and the bid from Eon, recently submitted to Scottish Borders Council, has already elicited some 600 public responses.
And, unusually for a proposal in an area where there is already a perceived over-density of wind farms, operational or in the pipeline, the number of submissions in support of the application marginally exceeds the letters of objection received.
There are more than 300 endorsements, the vast majority on pro-forma cards with backers of the project coming from as far afield as Cornhill, just over the border in Northumberland, and Edinburgh.
One supporter, John Reid of Station Cottage, Boleside, near Galashiels, writes: “Windmills are an aesthetically pleasing way of producing power with minimal impact on the environment. We should be deriving much greater electricity from these renewable sources.”
Another, James McInulty of Corsbie Farm Cottages, Earlston, avers: “I think having a wind farm at Corsbie is a good idea, especially for the sustainability of providing electricity for our small communities.”
Most of the objectors cite the “cumulative impact” of yet another wind farm development encircling Lauder, with plans for turbines at Brunta Hill, Shaw Park, Girthgate (on Lauder common) and Allanshaws at various stages of the planning process.
The Duke of Northumberland pulls no punches in revealing his hostility to this trend.
“The Borders, and Lauderdale in particular, were, until quite recently, one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. But in the last few years developers have moved in and are slowly destroying the quality of our landscape and environment,” states the duke, whose ancestral home is at Alnwick Castle.
“The lure of riches has seduced farmers and landowners into accepting wind farms and the local planning system seems unable to protect the area from turbine proliferation in the face of overwhelming costs to fight appeals against wealthy developers, strongly supported by the Scottish Government.
“We now know that wind farms rarely produce more than 25 per cent of their capacity; their manufacture and development emit vast amounts of CO2.
“They add significantly to the fuel bills of individual consumers and businesses, diminishing the former’s disposable income and undermining the latter’s ability to compete against foreign businesses.
“They are noisy, they kill bats and birds, including rare ones, spoil the lives of local people and potentially affect tourism.
“At the moment the road from Coldstream to Carfraemill is one of the few Borders routes unaffected by wind farms. This will change dramatically if Corsbie Moor and/or Brunta go ahead.
“Apart from blighting iconic views, looking east from Scott’s View and west from Twin Law for example, the effect on parts of the heritage, such as Legerwood Kirk, will be dramatic.
“The Borders has more that ‘done its bit’ to help fulfil the Scottish Government’s renewable energy policy and it is time to protect our remaining landscape and communities.
“These is a real danger that farmers and landowners who have so far withstood the lure of wind farm riches will soon see the area as too blighted to matter and be tempted to join the bandwagon.”
An Scottish Borders Council spokesman said it was likely the Eon bid would be considered early in the new year.