A legal challenge is set to be the fresh twist in a controversial windfarm saga stretching back to 2017.
The company behind the North Lowther scheme is mounting a court bid for judicial review of Scottish Ministers’ reasoning in refusing the proposal in January.
Original plans tabled in 2017 earmarked the site north-west of Wanlockhead and close to the northern ridge of the scenic Mennock Pass for 35 wind turbines towering up to 149 metres in height.
But the bid, revised in 2018, was downgraded to seek permission for 30 turbines on land belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate.
It had met with opposition from the communities of Leadhills and Wanlockhead and from a host of organisations with a vested interest.
The divisive plan resulted in a public inquiry in 2019 in a bid to help determine the application.
But German-owned renewables specialist BayWa.r.e, who are behind the development, have confirmed they will take their fight to the Court of Session to seek judicial review of the decision.
The company’s managing director, Gordon MacDougall, confirmed the move.
He said: “We have lodged a petition seeking a judicial review of the decision on the NLEI application.
“There is a well-established right for parties to seek a judicial review of decisions of this nature. As we are now in a legal process we do not wish to comment further on the details of the case.”
The company had earlier admitted being “disappointed” by January’s ministerial decision.
Judicial review is designed to examine the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public body and ensure they are acting within their powers.
Bodies including Dumfries and Galloway Council, South Lanarkshire Council and Lowther Hills Ski Club were amongst those who lodged opposition to the windfarm.
National Air Traffic Safeguarding also opposed the proposal on the grounds that it would have an “unacceptable impact” on Prestwick airport and on radars located at Lowther and Cumbernauld.
Sanquhar Community Council backed the plan and there were a total of 106 public representations supporting the windfarm.
However, Scottish Ministers vetoed it, ruling that it would “give rise to unacceptable significant adverse landscape and visual impacts as well as adversely impact on the historic setting of Wanlockhead”.
They backed the planning reporter’s verdict that benefits offered by the construction would be “outweighed” by the adverse effects on “the natural beauty of the area”.
Applicants the North Lowther Energy Initiative, a partnership originally between Buccleuch Estates and 2020 Renewables, said the £200 million scheme would create 40 jobs, as well as generating up to £735,000 a year for communities.
Buccleuch Estates no longer has any role in the process.
Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “Buccleuch was formerly a partner in a joint venture to develop the North Lowther Energy Initiative but that arrangement ended in 2019.
“Should the scheme ultimately go ahead, the turbines would be situated on Buccleuch land for which our business would receive a ground rent.”
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