Action group formed to fight Hermitage wind farm proposal

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AROUND 25 members of the sparse and sprawling Hermitage community came together on Tuesday evening to form an action group, dedicated to fighting plans for a 20-turbine wind farm on their doorstep.

Their minds had been concentrated by the erection the previous week by Infinis Wind Holdings Ltd of a 70-metre high meteoroligical monitoring (met) mast on the site of the proposed development at Windy Edge near historic Hermitage Castle, about six miles north-east of Newcastleton.

The company, which received consent for the mast from Scottish Borders Council, has now submitted a full scoping request on its plans for the turbines which will be 125 metres high from base to blade tip.

Council planners have told the firm to address various issues, the most important of which are visual and landscape impact and the effect of the ecology and wildlife within the site which covers the farms of Braidlie and Sundhope.

And the Hermitage Action Group (HAG), including Liddesdale residents from Hermitage, Whitrope, Steele Road and Shankend as well as Newcastleton, is focusing on the effect of the proposal on the iconic landscape around Hermitage Castle.

A HAG mission statement, issued after Tuesday’s meeting in Hermitage Hall waxed lyrical, as follows: “The great walls of Hermitage Castle rear up stark against its landscape, a brooding reminder of the tumultuous past of this area. Its bulk casts a dark spell over the visitor, transporting the imagination to a time of ancient feuds and bitterly contested rights.

“The proposed Windy Edge wind farm would flank the castle and its chapel. The giant turbines would completely dominate the landscape and setting of the castle and the Reivers’ Way. Approaching the castle by any route the traveller’s eye would be drawn again and again to these towering industrial structures.

“As the castle came into sight it would be dwarfed, a toy castle, no longer perceived as the massive and forbidding guardhouse of the Border. The birdsong and other natural noises of the landscape would be replaced by blade swish – the aerodynamic noise produced as the sixty 50m turbine blades rotate.

“This wild and attractive landscape, redolent of 800 years of Scottish history must be saved, otherwise what we have all taken for granted will be irretrievably scarred and lost. A wind farm which impacted on the setting of Hermitage Castle, diminishing and industrialising it, would reduce its attractiveness to tourists. Word gets around and tourists would go elsewhere.”

Malcolm McGregor, HAG’s press spokesman, said a public meeting would be held in the near future, inviting those in the wider Hermitage community to join the campaign.