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Residents quiz developer over turbine plans

Residents concerned about plans announced last month to put up Scotland’s highest ever wind turbines near Hawick met the developers behind them this week.

More than 30 members of the public attended an emergency meeting of Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage Community Council in Hermitage Hall on Monday night to hear about the wind farm proposed for a remote location near Newcastleton.

They were joined by Charley Rattan and Hannah Dyer, representatives of applicant Community Windpower and visitors including Hawick and Hermitage councillors Davie Paterson and Watson McAteer and Southdean Community Council chairman Philip Kerr.

The Cheshire-based firm has submitted scoping plans for 46 wind turbines, some up to a maximum height of 200m, to be located on land at Cliffhope, north of Saughtree Station House in Newcastleton and a few hundred yards from the hamlet of Singdean.

Mr Rattan gave a short presentation on the proposed Cliffhope wind farm development before taking questions from the floor.

Community councillor Geoffrey Kolbe, of Riccarton Farm, near Newcastleton, said: “The purpose of the meeting was so that the community council could formulate a response on behalf of the community.

“This meeting was fishing to get more details from Community Windpower to see what it is they are proposing and then have a discussion as to what our response was going to be.

“So far, all that has been published is the scoping report. That report goes to the energy consents department at the Scottish Government, and it will then consult with the relevant bodies, such as Scottish Borders Council, to get their response.

“Because it is so large and its implications are so wide-ranging, they are opening up to responses from the public too, not for objections, but for suggestions for what Community Windpower need to do to get a proper overview of what the implications of this wind farm would be.”

Over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, residents came up with questions about noise, traffic, lighting, timescales, the life expectancy of the turbines and the effect on broadband connectivity.

They also sought reassurances over any implications for the private water supply that serves 11 properties there after the company was recently criticised for its handling of a private water supply elsewhere.

Mr Kolbe added: “We are concerned about our water supply, particularly as they rode roughshod over the residents near the Sneddon Law wind farm development in East Ayrshire.

“We saw them ride roughshod over the law in order to get the job done, and if they are prepared to do that when it comes to water supplies, what else are they prepared to do on other matters?”

He noted that almost the entire community was against the proposals, adding: “This is a quiet, rural backwater.

“We are so remote here that there is no mobile phone reception. Kielder Forest is just a few miles away, and it’s a dark sky park, and we like it the way it is. That is why we live here.

“We don’t want it disturbed by what is a huge industrial development that is the same height as the new road bridge over the Forth.

“These structures are three times the height of the Angel of the North, and there could be 46 of them.”

Unveiling the plans last month, a spokesperson for Community Windpower said the project would yield £20m for the community over the course of its lifespan.

The firm is proposing a £2,000 per megawatt community contribution rather than the recommended £5,000 per megawatt benefit suggested by the Scottish Government.