It is good to see the Berwickshire Civic Society taking a stand on wind farms in their September Newsletter.
What they describe as a ‘major danger’ is the way our local democracy is being undermined by the processes of wind farm applications and approvals. This is not helped by politicians from central government who appear to support the sidelining of local democracy. This was flagrantly demonstrated by our MP and Secretary of State when he was parachuted in to open Long Park Wind Farm near Galashiels in a blaze of publicity, without mentioning that this application had been refused on very strong grounds by our own local SBC democracy and then overruled by ‘higher powers’. So much for the ‘Big Society’ empowering locals to take responsibility for their own affairs. Not a chance with wind farms!
It is quite difficult for people to find out about how a wind farm near them will affect their community, the local economy and the natural and cultural heritage we often take for granted. For the proposed PNE windfarm at Brunta Hill near Westruther, the Environmental Statement documents are on-line at SBC, but they are so large that very fast broadband is needed to access them – probably a rare commodity for the Berwickshire public. Paper copies are few and expensive (£150) further disenfranchising the public. Even if you can see one, the detail is overwhelming and likely to put many off.
The Brunta Hill Environmental Statement is a mass of photomontages (but how is it that the superimposed turbines are so faint and blurred?), maps, lists, designations and assessments. Unfortunately much of this appears to be a smoke-screen, because each evaluation, whether it be for protected birds, rare wetland plant communities or ancient monuments comes up with one of several stock assessments such as impact ‘negligible’ or ‘not significant.’
In the case of sites of ’cultural heritage’, how can they go to all the trouble and expense of hiring ‘experts’ who then just dismiss these 58 sites as unimportant? The truth is that the Lammermuirs are exceptionally rich in cultural heritage sites such as iron-age hill forts, and the setting of these will be greatly damaged by a huge industrial-scale wind farm. Several such sites around Brunta Hill have been omitted, such as Spottiswoode Iron-age Fort (NT602501), a well-preserved part of the ancient ‘Black Dyke’ known as Heriot’s Dyke (NT597501), the historic ‘Popping Stone’ erected by Lady John Scott of Spottiswoode (NT611507) (www.laverocks.co.uk/poppingstone/spottiswoode.htm) and, perhaps worst of all, no mention of the Twinlaw Cairns, which will surely be dwarfed by these 415-foot turbines? Their treatment of such sites is patronising and insulting to the people of Berwickshire, dismissing our local cultural heritage as unimportant.
The Twinlaw Cairns are a conspicuous feature of the Westruther skyline as well as one of the highlights for walkers on the Southern Upland Way. Their colourful history goes back into the mists of antiquity, supposedly commemorating the burial site of two twin brothers, one stolen away when very young by English raiders, then later unwittingly and tragically killing each other as members of opposing armies. More recently they were used as for target practice by soldiers in 1944, but later restored to their present glory. Even now, some local people claim a preponderance of twins in the area is due to Twinlaw. Every new wind turbine in the Lammermuirs is another massive nail in the coffin of our local heritage and we should vigorously defend what rightly belongs to everyone, not just to a few landowners temporarily entrusted with the safekeeping of the hills.
DAVID G. LONG,
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