Council objection may scupper wind farm plan

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Plans for a major wind farm in one of the most remote and scenic parts of the Borders – close to the source of the River Tweed – have been roundly opposed by councillors.

With a generating capacity of 50.4MW, consent for the 14 turbines proposed for Whitelaw Brae near Tweedsmuir is in the gift of the Energy Consents and Deployment Unit (ECDU) of the Scottish Government.

Scottish Borders Council, which determines bids for wind farms with an output of less than 50MW, is thus considered a statutory consultee in the planning process.

“This is just outside our responsibility, only just,” observed senior planning officer Ian Aikman at Monday’s meeting of SBC’s planning committee which unanimously agreed to object to the application from Whitelaw Brae Wind Farm Ltd.

Using slides to reflect the visual impact of the turbines, each 133m tall, Mr Aikman contended that the unspoiled character of the 23.7-hectare site, between Fruid Reservoir and the main A701 Dumfries to Edinburgh road, would “change dramatically” if the development was permitted.

He highlighted the site’s close proximity to the Tweedsmuir Uplands Special Landscape Area to the north and the Talla/Hart Fell Wild Land area to the east, and claimed the turbines would be clearly visible along a 20km stretch of the A701 tourist route.

He said the wind farm would have a “significant impact” on these areas.

Mr Aikman believed the site was not a natural extension of wind farms across the South Lanarkshire border, including the huge 152-turbine Clyde Wind Farm.

“This will set a precedent for further inappropriate intrusion,” he claimed, adding: “The balance between the advantages of energy production and the disadvantages of environmental impact must be weighed carefully against one another. In this case, it is considered the benefit is outweighed by the impacts.”

The committee heard the Scottish Government had already received 49 submissions of objection – and no letters of support – for the application.

The dissenters include the community councils of Upper Tweed, Tweedsmuir and Ettrick and Yarrow, all of whom have expressed concerns about adverse impact on tourism.

Although SBC is considered a consultee, Monday’s decision means that a public inquiry must now be held before the ECDU determines the application.