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New wind farm puts plans for Scotland’s third national park at risk

Plans to put up one of the world’s tallest wind turbines in the Scottish Borders will destroy hopes of creating Scotland’s third national park, campaigners have warned.

Cheshire-based Community Windpower has put forward proposals for a 46 turbine wind farm, some at a maximum height of 200 metres – which eclipses the London Eye by 65 metres, is nearly 30 metres higher than London’s BT Tower and around the same height as the new Queensferry crossing.

The world’s tallest wind turbine is reputed to have just been created by German company Max Bögl Wind AG in Gaildorf, Germany and stands 246.5m tall. Britain’s tallest is purported to be the 195m-tall turbines installed by Danish company Dong Energy which began generating electricity off the Liverpool coast in May.

But campaigners have warned the proposed Cliffhope Community Wind Farm within Wauchope Forest at the foot of the Cheviot Hills is in the middle of the planned national park and would leave hopes of getting the special conservation designation for the Borders’ internationally acclaimed countryside in tatters.

The farm’s most easterly point is just half a mile from the English border and the heavily protected Northumberland National Park, Kielderhead National Nature Reserve, Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve and the Kielder Forest Park.

They believe that designating what would be Scotland’s third national park around an area covering Cheviot, Teviot and Liddesdale would encourage more tourists to explore the variety of moorlands and forests.

Research recently completed by Bryden Associates, and commissioned by the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park (CSBNP), found the region meets the landscape, heritage and economic criteria required for park status.

The report believes a Borders national park could emulate the success of the two existing parks in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Scotland ranks near the bottom of the world league in terms of its number of national parks.

The Scottish Government, which would make any ultimate decision on park designations has said the park proposal had “major cost implications and presents a number of complex administrative challenges for local and central government, as well as the communities the national parks would serve”.

Campaign For a Scottish Borders National Park leader Professor Jane Bower said the possibility of the national park is currently under discussion with Scottish Borders Council and a major wind farm consent in the area would make designation “impossible”.

Ms Bower who is also vice chairman of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland Ms Bower has told the Scottish Government in a memo: “As you will be aware the Scottish Government has not ruled out the designation of more national parks in Scotland, although it has expressed concerns that designation might be unaffordable at this time.

“As the feasibility study reports and analysis on our website confirms, there would be no need for such concern in the proposed area, and there is abundant evidence that designation of this area would speedily render substantial economic and social returns.

“The benefits would be widely spread over a larger area and available generally to income generating businesses to boost employment and tax take.

“This would contrast with the way that disbursements to a small number of landowners and a handful of community projects from partisanly operated wind farm ‘community funds’ are not.”

Ms Bower added: “…If a consent was finally given to a Section 36 scale proposal within the boundaries of the proposed national park it would not be possible to designate the area as a national park. In addition, such a major alteration to this critical part of the landscapes of the Borderlands would disqualify the area from consideration.

“There are a number of other large windfarm applications for the area. Experience shows that if Cliffhope is approved the others will be waved through, making a total of nearly 200 turbines clustered in our area. Its spectacular landscapes would be destroyed and it would be unliveable.”

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.

Its scoping report concluded that the wind farm is “strategically-sited and has the potential to make a valuable contribution to renewable energy generation in Scottish Borders and Scotland”.

It said: “The Scottish Government recently re-stated an ambition to generate the equivalent of 50% of heat, transport and electricity requirements from renewable sources by 2030, representing a near threefold increase on current renewable generation.

“Cliffhope Community Wind Farm is situated primarily within a preferred area of search for large scale wind energy development within Scottish Borders.

“It is therefore well-sited and strategically aligned with aspirations outlined in the emerging Scottish Energy Strategy 2017.”

The company was approached for comment.