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Wind farm sweetener rejected by Borders tourism firm  

Credit:  Brian Donnelly, Senior News Reporter | Sunday Herald | www.heraldscotland.com ~~

It is designed to offer a tangible link to communities that embrace the concept of the wind farm revolution.

However, one tourism firm whose clients would sit and view the some of the largest turbines in Scotland on the prized skyline of the Scottish Borders, has warned the long-term impact on unspoilt beauty spots will outweigh the benefits offered to local people.

Rob Armstrong is not opposed to green energy but claims a wind farm on the horizon beyond Hawick would ruin businesses like his that rely on the world-beating vistas, which captured the heart of Sir Walter Scott.

Armstrong, who runs the Shepherd’s Hut and Glamping site at Minto towards the other side of the valley, said that anecdotally tourists are aghast that prized views are being considered for wind farms and many have said in a basic survey put forward by the tourism firm that it would deter their return.

His stance is contested, however, by the energy firm who put forward early consultant’s research that claims tourism would not be affected by wind farms.

Banks Renewables, the firm behind Birneyknowe, says it has developed one of the most forward-thinking green energy plans in the world.

Armstrong said the move would also impact on hopes for the creation of a new national park in the Borders.

He said: “We are in one of the most unspoilt areas of Scotland in the Teviot Valley.

“Since the closure of the area’s main industry, the mills, and the job losses what we are left with is tourism and small businesses.

“There are about 13 or 14 fairly sizeable wind farms including 150m-170m high turbines planned.

“These are some of the biggest turbines in Scotland.

“They are using the areas in the Scottish Borders because there’s not a huge population living here.

“We are fighting them as best we can.”

He went on: “Tourists come here from all over the world because it’s unspoiled.

“It is just at the point where the Borders is starting to open up, people are starting to discover it.”

He added: “It is not that we are not for green energy, we support renewables and wind energy but in the right place.

“It also affects the possibility of getting a national park which would really benefit the area,

“It would have financial and protective benefits.”

He also raised questions over potential benefits to the community and rejected sweeteners offered to the community.

He said: “People will find it is not that much.”

The developer at Birneyknowe Wind Farm, Banks Renewables, said it is on the cusp of launching “a unique, industry leading proposal aimed at increasing the level of social and economic benefits from the development and operation” of onshore wind farms in the Borders called Connect2Renewables (C2R).

Colin Anderson, development director at the Hamilton based Banks Renewables, said: “C2R is a serious commitment to supporting the local communities, businesses and people that live near our developments.

“As a result Birneyknowe Wind Farm will, if approved enhance the local economy, increase the prospects of a significant number of local people and business and support our country’s progress towards a low carbon future with very low cost clean energy.

“Banks Renewables has been talking to local community groups, clubs and local businesses in the Hawick area for over three years about the Birneyknowe project and the feedback we’ve had has only encouraged us to push ahead with the wind farm.

“Furthermore recent research has confirmed that the majority of people in the area support the project and are even more enthusiastic about the opportunity to own a share of it.”

The deal includes commitments specific to Birneyknowe like £3m of ring-fenced funding to be spent locally on projects such as the roll-out of superfast broadband.

The firm said 77 jobs are expected to be supported during construction and 10 during operation of the wind farm.

A Community Benefit Fund will make £2.5m available to support local clubs, teams and community groups, £350,000 will being allocated for a community energy discount scheme that will cut local household energy bills.

Banks Renewables is also offering the community the chance to buy up to 10 per cent equity share in the wind farm.

There are no artist’s impressions available showing how the turbines might look on the hillside.

Fifteen turbines at a maximum tip height of 132m are planned, which would provide the equivalent of 34,000 homes with electricity a year.

Anderson added: “Birneyknowe is a well-considered wind farm, sensitively designed in relation to its appearance within the surrounding landscape setting, while maximising energy generation that will help drive local economic boost.

“What’s more, conclusive evidence has shown that there is no real link between onshore wind and the effects of tourism – something that has regularly been cited by opponents of onshore wind as a potential drawback.”

While Armstrong is convinced a poll of visitors points to people’s concerns, the developer cites a report into Wind Farms and Tourism Trends conducted last year by Biggar Economics which concluded “there is no relationship between the growth in the onshore wind sector and growth in the tourism sector”.

Source:  Brian Donnelly, Senior News Reporter | Sunday Herald | www.heraldscotland.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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