A region-wide conservation network believes the Scottish Government is tearing up any democratic hopes of protecting the Borders countryside from wind farm developers.
The Borders Network of Conservation Groups has hit out at the recent Local Development Plan which was presented to Scottish Borders Council towards the end of last year.
The campaigners have raised concerns that a key part of the region’s proposed LDP on wind farms has been edited out of all recognition by Government Reporters.
And they are demanding answers from Marco Biagi MSP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment.
Following the removal of the local context and considerations from Scottish Borders Council policy on renewable energy developments, the group believes the council’s planning department will now have even fewer tools for controlling any inappropriate countryside developments, including large-scale wind farms.
John Williams, chairman of the Borders Network of Conservation Groups, told the Border Telegraph: “LDPs are intended to build on Scottish Government policy and guidelines by adding local context and considerations for the guidance of all interested parties.
“To this end, SBC and its contractors undertook comprehensive research, extensive – and expensive – public consultation, landscape study and capacity assessment to craft an objective, well-reasoned renewable energy policy relevant to the Borders region.
“The Network’s focus on the lawful and rational consideration of wind energy development in the Scottish Borders shows that the Reporters appear to have deliberately and forensically removed so much of the local context from the council’s policy that it now reads as if it were written by central government with no knowledge or account taken of the Scottish Borders landscape – or those people and businesses that depend on it.
“Worse, it seems that the Reporters’ localectomy has now removed so many references to the balanced independent studies commissioned by SBC that the new policy suggests a bias towards permitting wind farm developments – even though this was certainly not what most of the consultants advocated.”
Scottish Borders Council has already written to Holyrood to raise it concerns over the LDP and the lack of time given to make any challenges.
It is estimated that current wind farms in the Borders produce around nine times the amount of energy for the amount of households in the region.
And, as revealed recently in the Border Telegraph, there are currently proposals for seven major wind farms between the A68 at Carter Bar and the A7 south of Hawick.
Mr Williams echoed his members’ concern that as the development plans of many other local authorities have been subjected to equally harsh localectomies, it seems that there has been a national, centrally-driven impetus to impose a one-size-fits-all development plan across the country.
He added: “SBC is between a rock and hard place.
“It can, of course, only express disappointment at the Reporters’ crude editing but it dare not formally object in case it gets caught up in legal challenges that could leave it for too long without an updated guide to planning and development across the region.
“Already, the Scottish Government’s failure to keep to its own timetable when considering the Borders’ LDP means that SBC may not have an updated LDP ready for use in determining several major planning applications in the pipeline.
“The Network is now extremely concerned that a process designed to provide an objective, rational and local development plan appears to have been subverted by what we can only suspect to be undue political influence.
“This issue deserves much wider public scrutiny.
“Suppression of local government, local democracy and local community views surely cannot be what the present Scottish Government seeks to achieve?”
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