As the debate surrounding wind farm development rages in Northumberland, groups over the border are uniting in the fight against ‘turbine creep’.
While Northumberland has been described as the ‘wind farm capital of England’, neighbouring Berwickshire and the wider Borders has also seen an influx of turbines throughout the last decade.
And campaigners there this week upped the anti in their battle against wind farms, when forty representatives of anti-wind farm groups from the all over the Scottish Borders joined forces for the first time in their fight with developers.
Merging together, the united groups issued a stark warning that unless drastic action is taken to halt turbine creep, there is a “very real risk” that hundreds more new turbines could soon “ruin” the Borders’ biggest asset – its landscape.
Group members believe that the knock-on effects of this would have a negative impact on the tourism industry, local jobs, Borderers’ quality of life and long-term investment in the region.
Lammermuir Hills campaigner Mark Rowley, who chaired the joint meeting, said that the real flood of wind turbine applications was only just beginning, even though the Scottish Borders had already reached saturation point.
“The Borders already produces nine times as much electricity as Borders’ households consume, with no major benefit to most Borderers – many of whom will be in fuel poverty as a direct consequence of the subsidies paid to large, usually foreign renewable energy companies,” Mr Rowlwy said.
There are currently more than 400 constructed or consented large-scale turbines in the Scottish Borders, with 111 awaiting results of public local inquiries or appeals. Applications for a further 237 large turbines are currently being processed by Scottish Borders Council.
Mr Rowley continued: “Scottish Borders Council should be congratulated for developing robust planning procedures which, despite recent media reports citing pressure from the Scottish Government, have been developed within the Government’s own guidelines.
“Over the past few years, developers – mostly from outside the Borders – have been attracted by the region’s relatively low population and huge financial incentives – paid for by all electricity consumers. In their search for new sites, developers are moving into more populated areas where not just the visual, but the health, economic and the social impacts of turbines will be felt by many more people.”
David Walmsley, chair of the Minto Hills Conservation Group, told the meeting that a new report by Scottish Borders Council’s landscape architects stated that the rolling farmland area of Berwickshire had high sensitivity to turbines of 80-plus metres, and high to medium sensitivity to turbines of 50-80m. He said: “In effect, SBC is stating its view that there is no more room for such turbines in Berwickshire because of their significant adverse landscape and/or visual effects, not least because of the effect of the existing hundreds of large-scale turbines across the area. The conclusions of this report now need to be rolled out across the whole of the Borders.” Mr Walmsley added that if this practise was not extended across the region, the Borders landscape would soon be “engulfed by constantly moving, glinting industrial structures on every skyline,” and warned: “The blight on Berwickshire is just the beginning.”
The new network of Borders campaigners intends to foster greater communication and co-operation between groups concerned about the inappropriate siting of wind turbines in or around the Scottish Borders, and to ensure Borderers are aware of the growing scale of turbine development.
While the number of turbines in Northumberland represent only a fraction of those across the border – latest figures suggest there are around 135 operational or consented turbines across the county, with around 10 currently at planning and more than a hundred more at the pre planning stage – campaigners here have similar concerns about the cumulative affects of too many turbines on the landscape, tourism and quality of life.
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