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Anglican priest attacks church over wind farm

An Anglican priest has criticised the Church of England over a proposed wind farm in the Scottish Borders that he claims will desecrate the landscape.

RES, a renewable energy firm, has struck a deal to build 13 turbines, some as high as 176m, on land owned by the church near Hawick.

More than 100 objections have been lodged with council planners by residents, who fear Highlee Hill wind farm will scar the countryside, damage tourism and disrupt wildlife. The area is home to peregrines, kites, merlins and hen harriers.

An intervention by Andrew Warburton, a retired Anglican priest who lives near Newcastleton, close to the proposed development, is likely to prove embarassing for church officials.

In a letter to Scottish Borders council, Warburton, who served as a priest in Oxfordshire, said he was “ashamed” of his church for refusing to face residents who were likely to be affected by the wind farm.

“I am appalled that the Church Commissioners of England have had the gall to support this development in Scotland,” writes Warburton.

“In England they would have been required to engage with local people. But here they are not bothered to meet with those most directly affected. This is not the way that a supposedly Christian organisation is supposed to behave.”

Campaigners claim that Highlee Hill is among more than a dozen wind farms proposed within a 20 square-mile radius of the Scottish Borders.

Not all residents oppose the project. Jane Allan, a resident of nearby Wolfehopelee, has backed the wind farm but urged the Forestry Commission to replant the 26 hectares of trees that will be uprooted.

The Church of England commissioners said the Highlee Hill project could provide electricity for up to 30,000 homes and generate £3.6m of investment for the local economy.

“The commissioners continue to monitor and take into account ongoing community consultations and are in regular dialogue with the developer on this project,” said a spokesman.