Battle lines are being drawn in the Borders as the rush to harness the region’s wind power continues.
On one side are the wind farm developers, the Scottish Government with their ambitious renewable energy targets, and wind energy supporters, and on the other side is an increasing number of local residents, particularly in Berwickshire, who are beginning to fear the impact on the local landscape as the wind farm applications, with turbines up to 140m tall, start creeping down from the Lammermuirs into the Merse Valley.
Caught in the middle is Scottish Borders Council who have drawn up planning guidelines for such developments and last year made it clear that applications for wind turbines over 100m high would not find favour in lower lying areas of the region; but they are under constant pressure from local people to refuse the applications while the Scottish Government are pushing for the council to be more accepting of the applications, planning refusal decisions being overturned on appeal in some cases.
Forty representatives of groups from across the Scottish Borders have joined forces and are warning that unless drastic action is taken to halt ‘turbine creep’, there is a very real risk that the Borders landscape could be blighted by hundreds more new turbines with knock-on effects on the tourist industry, local jobs, quality of life and long-term investment in the region.
The network of groups opposed to large scale turbines aims to improve communication and co-operation between themselves and make local people aware of the scale of the turbines and their potential impact.
Developers are beginning to realise the need to engage with local communities affected by the wind farms and are becoming ever more imaginative in the incentives they are offering communities in return for their support.
Energiekontor, who have put in an application for ten 115m turbines at Hornburn between Ayton and Reston, are, according to the former chair of the Scottish Borders Community Partnership Dave McDougall who has submitted a letter of support for the application, offering to contribute £500,000 towards the re-opening of Reston Station. That is on top of a community fund of £100,000 a year for the community, administered by Berwickshire Association of Voluntary Service, and negotiating five apprentices with Borders College for their main contractor.
tci renewables, who are looking at a nine turbine wind farm at Rumbletonrig, Greenlaw, are the first to offer the local community a share of profits from the wind farm – six per cent.
Chair of the joint groups opposing the turbines, Mark Rowley, said: “The real flood of wind turbine applications is only just beginning. From consented to scoping, there are over 1000 large scale turbines affecting the Borders within the planning process – we are already likely to exceed the 500 consented industrial-scale turbine mark in 2013.
“Developers – mostly from outside the Borders – have been attracted by the region’s relatively low population and huge financial incentives. In their search for new sites, developers are moving into more populated areas where the impact of turbines will be felt by many more people.”