Farmers back Birneyknowe wind farm

From left: Neil Hamilton, Scotty Bell, Glen Wilson, John Douglas and Miles Crossley

From left: Neil Hamilton, Scotty Bell, Glen Wilson, John Douglas and Miles Crossley

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Local farmers have backed plans for a wind farm, saying it is the kind of project that should be embraced by a rural community that is suffering from a tough period in agriculture.

Farmers on the estates which would house and surround the site of the 15-turbine Birneyknowe wind farm between Hawick and Bonchester Bridge have backed the plans by wind energy firm Banks Renewables, saying it offers a revenue stream that would otherwise have to be found elsewhere through projects such as forestry.

The proposal, which has been submitted to The Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit and Scottish Borders Council for their consideration, offers a list of benefits to the local economy and the community.

Neil Hamilton’s family has run the estate where the wind farm would be located for 150 years. His land would house around half of the site while the other half would be on the farm owned by his brother Michael.

Neil said: “We are a rural community and farming is extremely important to our economy, but it’s an extremely tough time to be in farming at the moment and we’re all looking at ways to diversify or find another revenue stream.

“Some farms have gone down the forestry route, while others have just sold up entirely, so the options are fairly limited.

“This wind farm offers that revenue stream, but also offers a large financial injection to the community, increased employment and contracts to local business – therefore it shouldn’t be turned down.”

Banks Renewables recently announced plans to improve access to jobs in the Hawick area, by providing local people and firms with a new fund to boost training and workplace learning opportunities.

In addition to the creation of training opportunities, the community fund, which could generate up to £300,000 per year for the local area, could also deliver direct funding into community groups.

Donald Wilson, who has run one of the neighbouring farms for all of his working life, also backed the wind farm plans.

He said: “The farms around the site will see a very small revenue boost if it is approved, but it’s not a large enough amount to sway opinion.

“The reason I’m backing it is the investment it could bring into the community. There’s not much money in the area and projects like this can make a big difference.

“I’ve heard people shouting about the visual impact and the disruption in the area, but I think that’s being exaggerated and it has to be weighed up against the very obvious benefits.”