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Leadhills to be Mouse that Roared against windfarm  

Credit:  By Helen Mcall | Carluke Gazette | 13 January 2016 | www.carlukegazette.co.uk ~~

Villagers in Leadhills are ready to take on the local landowner and the Scottish Government to fight for a better future.

They are waiting to see which the government backs – their move for a community land buyout, or a new windfarm.

And they are asking: “Is this windfarm plan a cynical ploy by landowners to scupper land reform?”

They say if the windfarm gets approval the land buyout could be “dead in the water”.

Exactly two years ago the community announced it intended to pursue a community buyout of Leadhills Estate under land reform legislation.

The estate – owned by a Trust with Lord Hopetoun as one of the trustees – is used for shooting, and the local people believed it could be better used to attract tourists to the conservation village.

Villagers say that the Scottish Government was encouraging them in their plans.

But within months landowners, including Buccleuch and Hopetoun Estates were putting forward provisional proposals to the Scotish Government for a 160-turbine windfarm, on land which was partly Leadhills Estate.

Those proposals were later tweaked into a 140-turbine windfarm. Now there are plans instead for two smaller windfarms with 40 turbines on the Buccleuch Estates, which take in Wanlockhead, and 40 on the Leadhills land.

Campaigners believe if those go ahead, the original turbines would soon be added as extensions – and with the massive Clyde Windfarm already on the doorstep, tourism hopes would be dashed.

“This would turn the entire area into an industrial landscape,” said Karin Oostindjer. “It would destroy our tourism industry, which is what this village and Wanlockhead rely on.”

Villagers want to make the Leadhills and Wanlockhead area the outdoor capital of the South of Scotland, developing walking in the Lowther Hills, and having attractions such as a mountain bike centre, a zip line, rope park, a dry ski slope and an indoor climbing wall.

The Lowther Hills Mountain Resort already has the Lead Mining Museum, gold panning, the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, a golf course and a ski slope. but villagers argue that turbines on the hills would kill off the tourism.

The Scottish Government was originally in favour of community empowerment such as land buyouts, which are more common in Highland cofting areas.

“The Scottish Government was encouraging us to buy the land. We would have been the first large buyout in the South of Scotland,” said Karin.

“But by placing us within an industrial park, they are disempowering us.”

And she warned that if the windfarm went ahead, the community would be left depending on handouts from it, rather than building up a sustainable tourism industry.

“We would like to be in a position to build a flourishing community,” she said.

“We want to be able to determine our own futures.”

Windfarm objectors have been voted on to the community council, and its poll shows 80 per cent of villagers are against it.

”It is about getting our voice heard,” said Mike Davis, another community councillor.

“We are only a little village, but it is about being that mouse that roared.

“The village has a very strong mandate to object to the windfarm.”

Leadhills Estate, however, denied that the windfarm plan had been a reaction to the buyout plan.

A spokeswoman said: “The Trustees have been exploring the potential for renewable energy generation on the land, for a number of years.”

She added: “Leadhills Estate is committed to working with the community and has a good track record of supporting numerous initiatives such as the Lowther Hill Ski Club and the reopening of the public toilets, which the estate is part funding. Leadhills is a real gem and we want to work with the community to create a thriving place for people to live and work.”

Source:  By Helen Mcall | Carluke Gazette | 13 January 2016 | www.carlukegazette.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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