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Former priest hits out at church over support for wind farm near Hawick

A retired Anglican priest says he is appalled by the Church of England’s support for a proposed wind farm near Hawick as he believes it would be a blot on the landscape of the Borders.

Andrew Warburton, formerly a priest in Oxfordshire, said he is ashamed of his church for refusing to consult with residents likely to be affected by the Highlee Hill wind farm being lined up near his current Newcastleton home.

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

“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.”

Developer Renewable Energy Systems plans to build 13 turbines, some as high as 176m, on land owned by the church near Hawick.

Council planners have received more than 100 objections from residents fearful that the planned wind farm will blight the countryside as well as damaging tourism.

The area is a haven for peregrine falcons, kites, merlins and hen harriers, and objectors also fear the turbines would have a detrimental effect on wildlife.

The green energy plant is one of several wind farms proposed within a 20 square-mile radius in the Borders.

In his letter of objection, Mr Warburton claims the Church Commissioners were approached by representatives of Southdean Community Council but refused to engage with it, saying that the usual planning procedures were enough.

“Where is the pastoral care for the people of Southdean, and indeed the whole area? I am ashamed of my church,” he continues.

Describing the area as “one of the most scenic entries to Scotland via the A68 from Carter Bar,” Mr Warburton says the tall turbines would dominate the landscape.

He says the the vista looks out over the Cheviots and beyond, towards Lindisfarne, and “ is one of the most iconic views in the Scottish Borders, indeed in the whole of the UK, and would be “destroyed”.

With further wind farms in the pipeline at Wauchope, Newcastleton Forest, and Birnieknowe, Mr Warburton says there could potentially be a “ring of steel” or an “iron curtain” in the Borders.

“From 1970 through to the end of the Cold War, I crossed the Iron Curtain every year to visit my family in Czechoslovakia,” he added.

“The Iron Curtain was a reality, yet it was hidden.

“The possible iron curtain proposed here for an area of outstanding natural beauty would not be hidden but would forever damage our countryside. Is this what we want for the Borders?”

The commissioners say the Highlee Hill project could provide electricity for up to 30,000 homes and generate £3.6m of investment in the region’s 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.