March 16, 2013
Letters, Scotland

We won’t lie down over turbines

The Southern Reporter | 15 March 2013 |

Cockburnspath Community Council (CCC) is appalled by the Scottish Borders Council Local Review Body (LRB) decision to approve an application for two 110m-high wind turbines on land south-west of Neuk Farm, in close proximity to many residences in Cockburnspath – part of which is a conservation area.

This application has been refused twice under delegated powers, and once (unanimously) by a previous LRB.

Although height-to-tip sizes had been reduced to 110m (from 130m), CCC took the view that this was not substantially different from the initial one. This was backed up by the planning officer’s recommendation to refuse, but overturned by five elected members at a LRB hearing on a 3-2 vote, without a site visit by councillors from Jedburgh and District, Hawick and Denholm, and Selkirkshire.

Community councillors held an emergency public meeting on February 25 at which more than 30 members of the public attended (in addition to CC members). Others gave apologies, but also their views. More than 80 per cent of those attending had significant concerns regarding the cumulative effect of local wind turbine development, and a vote to complain to Scottish Borders Council regarding the process behind the LRB decision was unanimous.

The CC has since learned that the basis for LRB approval was based on the benefits to the business of Kinegar Quarry/Neuk Farm. According to the planning application, it will consume only six per cent of the generated electricity from these turbines.

The LRB has clearly omitted to take into account the substantial and life-changing disbenefits to the landscape in terms of visual impact and the effects on residential amenity.

We cannot understand why this LRB has taken such a decision, ignoring the objections of many local residents and the CC, as well as disregarding Scottish Borders Council planning policy.

In attempting to appeal this decision, community councillors have met with many obstacles. The LRB decision cannot be overturned other than by expensive judicial review. Reporters have to have their decisions signed off by government ministers, but it appears that on the basis of a hasty, superficial assessment of this application, this ludicrous decision will now stand.

The system would appear to be unfairly biased in favour of developers – who are free to lobby and appeal time after time, yet there is little recourse for communities in such decisions. Scottish Borders Council officers will not enter into a meaningful dialogue with us on this decision, and the new petitions committee precludes in its terms of reference any petition against specific planning decisions or the conduct of individual councillors.

Cockburnspath’s community will not let this decision lie. It will fight in every practicable way in the hope that common sense – and the views of local people – cannot be so easily disregarded.

Pauline Hood (chair)

Kate Tulloch (secretary)

Cockburnspath Community Council

Like Alison MacDonald (letters, March 7), I was dismayed and shocked to hear that the decision to refuse planning permission for two 110m wind turbines on the edge of Cockburnspath had been overturned on appeal.

I was surprised to learn that the decision was carried by the votes of three councillors who are in no way local – all three representing and living in wards more than 40 miles away. This makes a mockery of local democracy and echoes the situation our SNP Government in Holyrood abhors so much – i.e. decisions affecting one area being made in another. It appears this policy doesn’t apply at local levels.

The whole situation reminds me of that Hitchcock film, “Strangers on a Train”, where a man gets a stranger to murder his wife and in return will murder the stranger’s father. That way neither murderer appears to have any motive.

In exactly the same way three councillors from one side of the Borders are murdering the landscape, health and economy of an area on the opposite side of the region. Voters in east Berwickshire are powerless to kick out these councillors as they were not elected by them.

Will it surprise anyone if a similar decision affecting say Selkirkshire is carried by the votes of Berwickshire councillors?

This is just another sad step towards the total obliteration of our countryside and with it our vital tourist industry by ever-larger wind turbines. The Lammermuir Hills are lost, Berwickshire will be gone within a couple of years. Make no mistake, Jedburgh, Hawick and Denholm, and Selkirkshire will be lost too.

And when they are, remember the names of Jim Brown, Alastair Cranston and Vicky Davidson – they have the blood of our countryside on their hands.

Richard Dennington


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