The trust which runs historic Thirlestane Castle will lose out on £850,000 if the Scottish Government rejects plans for a major new wind farm between Lauder and Stow.
The cash comprises an initial payment from the developers of £100,000 and an annual sum of £30,000 to be disbursed over the 25-year lifespan of the 24 giant turbines at Girthgate.
The Border Telegraph has learned that a partnership agreement – to be activated if consent is granted – has already been reached with the Thirlestane Castle Trust and that the cash will “help preserve jobs at the castle and help with maintenance costs”.
“It will also allow them [the trust] to run an educational development centre,” states the website of Cheshire-based Community Windpower Ltd – one of three renewables firms behind the Girthgate project.
“It is envisaged the funding for the castle will be used for educational visits for students in the local area, raising awareness of the castle and environmental issues in the Scottish Borders.”
The Thirlestane cash is part of the so-called “community benefit” accruing from the wind farm which will have an installed generating capacity of over 81 megawatts (MW).
In total, the developers say they will provide funding of £408,000 a year to the “local community” – some £10.2million over 25 years.
But this incentive has failed to sway many of the potential beneficiaries with the community councils of Stow, Fountainhall and Lauder combining to strongly object to the erection of the 132-metre high turbines on land just north of the B6362 Lauder Common road.
Only one community council – Oxton and Channelkirk – has offered its “cautious support”.
Their submissions have been forwarded to the Energy Consents and Development Unit (ECDU) of the Scottish Government which will ultimately decide if the green light should be given.
Under current planning rules, bids for local wind farms with a generating capacity of under 50MW are determined by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee.
In the case of Girthgate and its massive scale, SBC is treated simply as a consultee and, last Monday, the committee unanimously agreed to object to the scheme.
Councillors backed a report by senior planning officier Ian Aikman which said the proposal, taken alongside other wind farms operating or proposed for the area, would have a “dramatic and harmful” impact on the landscape.
The turbines would be prominent to road users on the the A7, A697, A68 and other minor roads including the approaches to Lauder and Stow, as well as to residential homes within 5km on the site. Walkers and other users of the Southern Upland Way, local paths and Lauder golf course would also be affected.
Galashiels councillor Bill White said Lauder Common was “one of the few places where you get a feeling of solitude in the Borders”, while Councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East) said he believed the Borders would become a “wind farm landscape” if the plans were approved.
Opponents of the development received a further boost last week when Andrew Panter, Borders operations manager of Scottish Natural Heritage, submitted a comprehensive objection, citing the adverse impact on ecology, wildlife and sites of special scientific interest.
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