Although one part of Peeblesshire will still be exempt from hosting wind farms, others may not be so lucky as Scotland’s drive to have all its energy needs met from renewable sources goes up a gear.
Concerned councillors have now called on the Scottish Government to ensure new planning rules do not result in an unchecked proliferation of turbines at unsuitable sites across the Borders.
Even SNP members, who dominate the ruling administration on Scottish Borders Council, have backed the call for a more measured Scottish planning policy (SPP) which is in the gift of the Holyrood legislature and is currently being reviewed.
Underpinning a large chunk of the national strategy, which will inform local planning decisions, is a commitment that 100 per cent of Scotland’s energy needs will be met from renewable sources by 2020.
And the Scottish government considers that wind energy will play a “significant role” in achieving that target, asserting that “wind energy in appropriate locations” should be supported by local planning committees.
A new national planning framework sets out those areas where wind energy will not be supported from a national perspective.
These include national parks and national scenic areas (NSAs) of which there are just two in the Borders: in Upper Tweeddale and Eildon/Leaderfoot.
The Upper Tweeddale NSA is to the south west of Peebles, comprising 12,000 hectares of unspoiled land either side of the rising River Tweed (and the B712 road) as its skirts Broughton, Dawyck, Stobo and Kirkton Manor. The northern part of the NSA includes Neidpath Castle.
But fears that other scenic areas could be sacrificed on the altar of the renewable energy target were expressed when the full council met to discuss a formal response to the national strategy.
“South of the border, the renewables target is a much more realistic 20 per cent by 2020,” said Councillor Michael Cook (Ind).
He claimed that when he looked north from his home in eastern Berwickshire, the landscape was scarred with wind farms which SBC’s planning committee had rejected, but which were given the go-ahead on appeal to Scottish ministers.
“The Government in Edinburgh is being vainglorious in its pursuit of its renewables target,” said Mr Cook.
“The SSP puts great store in a planning system which delivers economic growth, yet tourism is a key player in the Borders economy.
“To meet the renewables target we could see a doubling of wind farms in our region yet the SSP offers us no additional protection.
“A huge amount of damage has already been inflicted on our most beautiful scenery and for more of the same to happen will be an unkind legacy to leave future generations.”
Mr Cook urged his colleagues to back a series of responses to the national planning policy, outlined in a report presented by Brian Frater, SBC’s head of planning.
That support was given without dissent.
The report observed that the Borders “is starting to reach the stage where there is an increased potential for cumulative impact arising from wind farms and this is leading to an increase in public concern”.
“Pressure [on the region] may increase as a result of the SPP proposal to provide enhanced protection for Scotland’s most valued landscape where wind farms will not be acceptable.”
But that category excludes, for example, the many sites of special scientific interest in the Borders.
Mr Frater claimed the SPP also gave “inadequate status” to other important areas in the region including scenic and long distance walking routes.
These “key tourism resources”, along with local natural heritage designations, must, said Mr Frater, be given an enhanced status to prevent development.
“Failure to give appropriate protection to essential resources for economic prosperity endangers the future prosperity of the Borders,” he added.
He felt the council’s own study of landscape capacity should be the baseline for all potential wind turbines and be a “key determinant in consideration of wind turbine applications”.
The council also wants Holyrood to reconsider the minimum permitted distance, currently 2.5km, between wind turbines and houses, given that the structures now averaged a height of 120 metres.
And the council strongly objects to the SSP provision that the offer of community cash benefits by wind farm operators could be material in determining a wind farm application.
“The council strongly proposes that the Scottish Government removes any reference to financial inducement as a material consideration in the determination of planning proposals for wind turbines.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding