COUNCILLORS have agreed not to object to proposals to extend one of the largest wind farms in Europe into the Borders as long as government ministers consider ommitting five specific turbines, writes Mark Entwistle.
If the Scottish Government agrees to that condition, the Borders council will have no objections to the application for 54 more turbines near Tweedsmuir from SSE Renewables.
The bid, if successful, would see an extension to the current 152-turbine Clyde Wind Farm development in South Lanarkshire, and was considered by SBC’s planning committee on Monday.
Only three of the proposed additional turbines would be sited within the Borders boundary – none are located in the region at present – in SSE Renewables’ proposed layout, with the remainder in South Lanarkshire.
It is due to the large scale of this particular wind farm that it is the Scottish Government which will decide whether the application is successful, with both the Borders and South Lanarkshire councils involved only as consultees.
SBC planners want the wind farm scaled down for visual impact reasons, with the developers having already reduced the proposal from 57 to 54 machines.
The applicants claim the £246million scheme will generate nearly 150 jobs locally, with more than £20million being pumped back into local communities over the lifespan of the wind farm.
South Lanarkshire Council already considered and agreed not to object to the application.
The existing Clyde Wind Farm lies to the south and west of the proposed extension site and the area being [proposed for the extension lies within the Tweedsmuir Uplands Special Landscape Area (SLA)
The extra turbines will be 142m to tip in height, but councillors heard that any significant impacts from the additional turbines were generally limited to the A701 corridor and the omissions of certain turbines, relocation of others and reduction in turbine heights would result in lesser visual effects.
SBC wants the further omission of five turbines to particularly improve the visual impact when viewed from the A701 road south of Tweedsmuir.
Local councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East, SNP) said, as someone who drives up and down the A701 road quite frequently, the turbines were visible to motorists.
“I’m impressed there has been some give on turbine location and that some of the heights of turbines have been reduced,” Mr Bell told fellow committee members.
“But as you drive towards the Devil’s Beef Tub, you keep coming upon wind farm upon wind farm, practically all the way to the Crook Inn.”
Mr Bell added that if there were further extensions in certain directions, they would have a “very dominant impact” visually.
However, he said he would find this latest proposal acceptable if doing so helped protect the eastern part of the valley – as people travel north from the Borders – from further encroachment.