An attempt by a windfarm developer to overcome objections to its plan to build turbines near Hermitage Castle looks to have hit a brick wall.
Despite the removal of some turbines and the lowering of others, Historic Scotland and Scottish Borders Council’s landscape architect Jim Knight, maintain their opposition.
Infinis has held talks with the council, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to try to find a way to get them to drop their objections to the proposal for seven turbines on Sundhope Rig and eight on Reedy Edge.
But Adele Shaw of Historic Scotland said that ‘we do not consider that the proposed revisions are sufficient to change our current position’.
She said: “We do not consider the mitigation is sufficient to alter the view given in our previous response.
“We remain of the view that significant adverse impacts on the setting of Hermitage Castle and Chapel are likely. On this basis we maintain our objection.”
In his correspondence with Infinis John Hiscox, council planning manager, said: “Although there is a slight difference, a lessened landscape and visual effect caused by removing two turbines and reducing the height of the remainder on one array, this does not enable support to be given.
“Placement of a large commercial wind energy development contrasts and conflicts with the experience of discovery and would potentially reduce the attractiveness of one of the Borders best heritage assets and visitor attractions.
“If the changes you need to make to overcome landscape and visual impacts are so fundamental they would have the potential to render the scheme unviable, that in itself highlights that this is not a logical place to build a large commercial windfarm, with all the infrastructure and transport costs it would incur.”
The planning committee hearing may be on June 2 but Infinis is considering submitting a formal further environmental impact statement which may include a revised turbine layout.
Mr Hiscox says the meeting may be delayed. He must await this information from Infinis and send it to all statutory consultees and await their responses.
Malcolm McGregor, chairman of the Hermitage action group, said it was frustrating to see that planning law allowed applicants, post-formal application, to continue to consult key consultees who had objected.
He said: “Those of us who live in Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage and who would be directly affected if this development or some cobbled-up version of it goes ahead, seem to not count at this stage of these ‘negotiations’.”
Bill Cairns, a Fellow of the Landscape Institute and chairman and chief executive of Cairns Intersphere Consultancy, an environmental consultancy in Edinburgh, was shown around the castle, valley and windfarm site by Malcolm last summer.
Mr Cairns said: “The windfarm poses significant detrimental risk to the landscape character and its inherent visual amenity, in particular, the distinctively unique atmospheric setting of Hermitage Castle.
“It is implausible that constructing a windfarm at Windy Edge can be considered an environmentally sustainable decision or one without irrevocable adverse effect.”
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