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Scoping report issued for wind farm site next to Fala Loch

A new wind farm proposal for eight 126.5m-high turbines on Fala Moor, between the A68 and A7 trunk roads, is being put forward by Greenock-based company Gilston Hill Farm.

The land in question lies north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot, and is in an area much favoured by renewable energy companies. The Dun Law Wind Farm lies 1.5km to the east and Toddleburn Wind Farm is 2km to the south.

However, the proposed site is also next to Fala Flow Loch, a site of special scientific interest also designated as a special protection area.

A similar application at the same site – for only seven turbines measuring 115m to blade tip – was refused planning permission by Scottish Borders Council in 2013, and an appeal was dismissed by a reporter appointed by Scottish ministers.

In his decision, reporter Richard Bowden said: “I conclude that the proposal would give rise to an unacceptable number of significant adverse landscape and visual amenity impacts, including cumulative impacts.

“In my view, these have tended to be understated by the appellant in the assessments made when categorising them overall as being acceptable.

“Furthermore, the appellant, while seeking to demonstrate that the case in favour of the proposal was based on a balanced assessment, has unreasonably diminished the significance of even the adverse impacts that are acknowledged.

“In doing so, the appellant has unfairly dismissed the issues of concern raised by the council, Scottish Natural Heritage and others.”

Mr Bowden also concluded that “the economic case and related sustainability benefits put forward in support of the appeal proposal do not provide sufficient justification to override the outstanding concerns regarding likely adverse impacts”.

That application was launched by RidgeWindd, via SLR Consulting. The latter is also dealing with Gilston Hill Farm’s scoping report, which asks for guidance from the council on an environmental impact assessment in respect of ornithology and landscape.

The company said that once that had been processed, a planning application would be submitted.

While 57.7% of Scotland’s electricity came from renewables in 2015, the Scottish Government has set a target of 100% of energy to be sourced from renewables by 2020, and most of this would have to be gererated by wind.

With that deadline less than four years away, pressure may be on to look more favourably on sites that have been dismissed in the past.