I was dismayed to discover that an application for two 110m wind turbines at Neuk Farm, Cockburnspath, has been approved.
These enormous, industrial turbines are less than a mile outside the conservation village of Cockburnpath and will be highly visible from many parts of the village and the surrounding area. They will have a massive impact on the village, which is on the Southern Upland Way and relies heavily on the tourist industry.
This is the second application by this local farmer for turbines. The first was refused.
This application was approved by the local review body, made up of five councillors, only one of whom is local – Jim Fullarton (Con), of East Berwickshire. Mr Fullarton, arguably the only councillor who could be considered familiar with the landscape, voted against the proposal.
Jim Brown (SNP), councillor for Jedburgh and District, Alastair Cranston (SNP), councillor for Hawick and Denholm, and Vicky Davidson (SLD), councillor for Selkirkshire voted for the proposal.
What is more concerning is, despite residing 40+ miles from the site, these councillors declined to undertake a site visit to familiarise themselves with the area, prior to reaching their decision. It is therefore questionable how they could possibly have reached a competent decision.
This is compounded by the fact that this application was recommended for refusal by an experienced planning officer, in accordance with the consolidated local plan. The main reasons given by the officer were landscape and visual impacts, and impact on residential amenity.
Why then did these councillors, who receive limited training in planning issues and did not competently undertake their review body duties, think they were qualified to go against the planning officer’s recommendations? Perhaps it is part of a bigger agenda?
If you live in Jedburgh, Hawick, Denholm or Selkirkshire, be very aware of what your local councillors’ real views are on wind turbines.
The decision to approve two huge wind turbines at Neuk Farm, right on top of the hill above Cockburnspath, has left me incredulous – and despairing of the calibre of those entrusted to make supposedly informed decisions on complex matters.
Have our councillors learned nothing from what has happened in the Lammermuir Hills?
The Neuk Farm decision ignores Scottish Borders Council’s local development plan, and it makes a complete mockery of the special landscape area status, painstakingly drawn up to ensure a balance of protection and appropriate development in the countryside.
Worse, these monstrous machines – more than twice the height of most pylons – will pave the way for many more applications, and come to be seen as the first boils in a plague of wind turbine developments down our beautiful Berwickshire coastline.
I doubt many folk would have minded a couple of farm-scale turbines off the top of the hill to help the applicant reduce his electricity bill – as a hill farmer’s daughter, I have at least some understanding of how hard hit the farming community has been in recent decades.
But that is no excuse for one generation – and just one sector of the rural community – to vandalise our cherished countryside for their own ends.