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Councillors blow ‘overbearing’ Lauder wind farm bid off course

A renewable energy firm is weighing up its options after its proposal for eight large wind turbines at Brunta Hill near Lauder was unanimously rejected on Monday.

Speaking to the Border Telegraph after the meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee, Gemma Hamilton, project development manager of PNE Wind UK Ltd, said: “We maintain our position that this is an acceptable scheme.

“Following detailed examination of today’s decision, we will explore what further options are available to progress this development.”

Given that the firm had reduced the scale of its original proposal for the site – four miles north-east of Lauder and two miles north-west of Westruther – an obvious option would be to appeal Monday’s decision to a reporter appointed by a Scottish Government committed to meeting renewable energy targets.

“Over the past three years, we have consulted extensively with SBC, statutory consultees and the local community and used their feedback and advice to shape this proposal,” said Ms Hamilton.

“This has included significant improvements to the design by reducing the number, layout and height of the turbines and associated infrastructure.”

In fact, in its revised proposal PNE had cut the number of turbines from 10 to eight and had reduced the height of each, base to blade tip, from 126.5metres to 100metres.

But that did not assuage the affected community councils – Lauderdale, Gordon & Westruther and Cranshaws, Ellemford & Longformacus – which all submitted objections.

Also not convinced by the changes was SBC’s planning officer Carlos Clarke whose extensive report concluded with a strong recommendation for refusal of the detailed planning application.

The site, on undulating agricultural land north-east of Blyth Farm, was described as a “prominent ridge” with computer generated slides showing the turbines dominating the skyline from various viewpoints.

Councillors were advised that the Brunta Hill proposal could not, in terms of its visual impact, be considered in isolation and that its context was informed by two other neighbouring wind farms.

The first was the industrial scale 48-turbine complex at Fallago Ridge on the western fringes of the Lammermuirs. Now up and running, this development was originally rejected by SBC before being endorsed, following two public inquiries, by the Scottish Government.

The second – nine turbines at Corsbie Moor just south-west of Westruther – was also kicked out by SBC last year, but is now subject of an appeal to the Scottish Government’s directorate of planning and environmental appeals.

“This development would, by virtue of its prominent location, lead to significant and unacceptable impacts on the landscape character of the surrounding area,” said Mr Clarke.

“It would have an overbearing and dominant impact on the amenity of nearby residential properties [including the housing groups at Gairmuir and Raecleuch].

“In combination with Corsbie Moor and Fallago Rig, it would also lead to unacceptable cumulative visual effectsÂ…on the northern section of the Southern Upland Way, on surrounding roads and in residential properties.”

With several of the 110 individuals who had objected to either the original or the revised proposal sitting in the public benches at Newtown, Councillor Donald Moffat, who with other members of the committee had visited the site recently, described the plans as “a step too far”.

“Some wind farms fit in quite nicely with the environment and others don’t,” he said. “This is certainly in the latter category.”

Ms Hamilton told us: “We are extremely disappointed by this decision.

“Considerable effort has gone into the design of the Brunta Hill wind farm to ensure the renewable energy potential of the site is maximised while minimising the landscape and environmental effects on the surrounding area.”