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Moratorium call over exploding wind turbine ‘tinderbox’ fears

It has become one of the iconic images of last Thursday’s storm in which the south of Scotland was hammered by gale force winds and resulting in Scottish Borders Council (SBC) closing all schools early.

Two incidents during the storm – a turbine bursting into flames at Ardrossan in North Ayrshire and another crashing to the ground near Coldingham in Berwickshire have led a Borders campaign group to call for a moratorium on all further wind farm developments.

“It does not bear thinking about if what happened near Ardrossan was to happen here,” said Malcolm McGregor, chairman of the Hermitage Action Group (HAG), founded in July to fight plans for a 20-turbine windfarm at Windy Edge, near Hermitage Castle.

The turbine explosion, apparently caused by a braking system malfunction, occurred on a development owned by Infinis Wind Holdings, the company behind the Windy Edge proposal.

The company, which has a meteorological monitoring mast on the Borders site – skirting Wauchope Forest and covering the farms of Braidlie and Sundhope – is addressing a request by SBC planners to outline the effect of the development on ecology and wildlife.

Up to now, HAG, which has drawn support from Liddesdale residents from Hermitage, Whitrope, Steele Road and Shankend as well as Newcastleton six miles away, has highlighted what it considers the adverse impact on the historic castle and its landscape setting.

But Mr McGregor believes the two storm incidents, especially the Ardrossan explosion, offer more grist to the mill of those who believe developments at Windy Edge and many other hitherto unspoiled Borders locations targeted by renewable energy companies, are unacceptable.

“The Ayrshire turbine was 100 metres high and the blaze raged for around 20 minutes before the fire brigade arrived to extinguish it,” claimed Mr McGregor. “According to the photographer, Stuart McMahon, there was debris still on fire being swept off in the wind and across the fields.

“The turbines planned for Windy Edge are taller – 125 metres from base to blade tip – and there is no way the fire service could access the site in sufficient time. It is one thing getting to the road end, but Sundhope and Braidlee are notoriously boggy.

“Given the proximity of Wauchope Forest as well as our homes, one can only shudder at what would happen if we had such bad winds in dry weather and a turbine caught fire. It would be a tinderbox.”

Mr McGregor said his action group was supporting Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS) in calling on the Scottish Government, in view of the two incidents, to implement an immediate moratorium on any further wind turbines.

“A clear health and safety issue has now emerged, especially given the Met Office forecasts of further deep depressions hitting Scotland and the surge in wind farm applications in the Borders,” said Mr McGregor.

“The current guidelines, designed to keep turbines away from houses, hospitals, schools and key roads, are clearly not effective enough. In the two incidents, it is fortunate that no-one was hurt, but they should act as a wake-up call to the government, planners and developers.”

The turbine that was blown down in Berwickshire was about half-a-mile north of Coldingam at the Lamsdaine junction on the A1107. The tip of a blade came to rest within five metres of that road.

z Plans for a six-turbine wind farm at Spurlens Rig near Leadburn were rejected this week by Scottish Borders Council planners.

Using delegated powers, the officers determined that the bid by Lomond Energy breached council planning policy and that the development would have “a significant adverse impact on the landscape character of the area [including the Pentlands and Moorfoots] and surrounding countryside”.

Lomond Energy declined to comment.