A prolonged community protest to prevent turbines being erected above the village of Eddleston has failed.
On Friday Cabinet Secretary for Economy Keith Brown announced that, following an appeal process which has lasted almost two years, permission will be granted for a wind farm at Cloich Forest.
Partnership for Renewables can now erect 18 turbines on the 260-hectare site which is just under two miles from Eddleston and just over three miles from Peebles.
During a campaign to prevent the development, which was first mooted back in 2012, a total of 319 objections were tabled.
And a public survey conducted by Eddleston Community Council found 93 per cent of residents were against the plans.
Friday’s news was met with anger and frustration by campaigners, who fear for the future of their private water supplies.
James Taylor from Eddleston told the Peeblesshire News: “Our greatest concern here is not for the awful visual impact, nor for the unknowable impact on tourism and the use of the Tweed Trails and walkways – the windfarm sits squarely astride the Cross Borders Drove Road, which is one of the Great Trails of Scotland; nor for the noise levels which will require some at least of the turbines to operate in an even less efficient mode.
“Our greatest concern remains the unknown and unknowable impact on the private water supplies on which much of the community of Eddleston – dwellings, farms and businesses – rely.
“Much of that water, surface water, groundwater, boreholes, springs and wells, comes from Cloich, and we shall have to work closely with Scottish Borders Council to ensure that the essential conditions are put in place to monitor private water supplies for quantity and quality before any work starts.”
Part of Friday’s prepared statement from the Scottish Government was to announce that the appeal for neighbouring Hag Law, where Stevenson Hill Wind Energy wanted to erect eight turbines, had been thrown out.
But the refusal of the Rommano Bridge bid didn’t soften the blow for the Cloich campaigners.
And they still believe that the two separate applications should not have been considered together throughout the appeal process.
Mr Taylor added: “These were two separate wind farms yet they were put together in some kind of beauty contest – one was always going to win and one was going to lose.
“The Public Inquiry went well for us – we made the case strongly, backed by public opinion, and were able to demolish so many of the arguments put forward by the developer.
“Yet when Hag Law, a further development with a different developer and landowner, was called in to be dealt with by the same Reporters, it seemed somehow inevitable that we were in a beauty – or ugliness – contest, with one of these due for approval.”
The Scottish Ministers who oversee the appeals processes defended the decision for both applications to be considered together.
Frances Pacitti, who is Head of Consents, stated: “The reason for the direction was due to both sites being within close proximity and this allowed Ministers to consider the potential cumulative impact.
“Having also considered Hag Law wind farm proposal the Reporters concluded the proposals are not compatible and therefore should not both be built.
“A comparison between Cloich Forest and Hag Law gives the balance of advantage to Cloich Forest.
“Scottish Ministers agree with the Reporters’ reasoning and conclusions, adopt them for the purposes of their own decision and accept their recommendation.”
The 18-turbine wind farm at Cloich Forest will generate enough power for around 27,000 homes as well as up to £6 million in community benefit funding.
The Cabinet Secretary said: “Once the Cloich wind farm is operational it will generate £6 million for local people and community groups while producing enough electricity to power almost 26,968 homes.
“Renewable energy sources generated more than 57 per cent of gross electricity consumption in Scotland in 2015.
“The growth of onshore wind in recent years has been the key factor in the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland: creating jobs, providing secure and low-carbon energy and delivering significant community benefits.”
A further development for seven turbines at Kilrubie, which neighbours Cloich, is currently being considered by Government Reporters.
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