Renewable energy and wind turbines not surprisingly attracted most comments when Scottish Borders Council’s draft Local Development Plan was out for public consultation.
Councillors at today’s (Thursday) meeting are discussing the responses received on the main issues in the report and SBC’s director of environment and infrastructure advised them: “The Main Issues Report has received a large number of responses in relation to onshore wind energy.
“In view of the level of interest and concern in relation to this matter the council has commissioned further work to assess the potential impact of onshore wind energy proposals in respect of landscape capacity, economic impact and public perception.”
The results of this new piece of work are expected by the end of 2012 and councillors were being recommended to defer any decision on how to tackle renewable energy in the future Local Plan until spring 2013 when the Plan will have progressed from the ‘draft’ to the ‘proposed’ stage.
Almost 100 responses said that the Scottish Borders “is already at saturation point in terms of wind turbines” and want the council to adopt an alternative policy of dealing with planning applications for wind turbines “by exception”. The six objections to this prospective policy all came from wind farm companies.
Berwickshire Civic Society has asked the council to “resist the SNP’s order to identify more land for wind turbines”. They add: “This will totally destroy the already blighted landscape and the health and business of the Borders communities.
The Southern Uplands Partnership, also take issue with how little reference there is in the Local Plan to single medium scale turbines and their cumulative effect.
The council’s response to this is: “The council is aware of cumulative issues of smaller scale turbines.”
“ There is a pilot study of this issue being carried out within Berwickshire where this is a particular concern.
“The template for this study may well be used for other parts of the Borders where this is also an issue.”
The Southern Upland Partnership also say that “the biggest issue is whether the Borders should continue to develop as a major centre for renewable (predominantly wind) energy or whether it should seek to retain and to grow the tourism industry it has.
“The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive but there are carbon implications either way. The former may be the only way to generate significant new investment.”
Calls for a moratorium on wind farm applications were rejected on the grounds that other councils who have tried this found they were dismissed by the Scottish Government.
Hillwalker Laurie Macaskill commented: “ It is daunting to walk through a wind farm in operation and in the Lammermuirs it has got to the point that, from the east coast the length of the hills, you can stand at one wind farm and see the next one in the distance.”
Other comments were that the Borders “has done its bit for wind power” and its landscape and wildlife must be protected.
The Scottish Government, however, do not agree and their comment is that Scottish Borders Council “should be more positive towards the potential that onshore wind energy development can be towards the national renewable energy targets”.
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