Oxton wind farm reporter’s verdict goes against judge

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CALLS from a top Scottish judge to scrap a public inquiry into an Oxton wind farm plan have been knocked back.

Scottish Government reporter Dannie Onn refused to rule on Lord Angus Glennie’s request to call off an inquiry into the Rowantree application by RWE npower renewables, claiming that an environmental statement fails to support the development.

However, Mr Onn was forced to postpone the hearing until next year at a procedure meeting this month after the developers failed to advertise important information.

In Mr Onn’s report of the procedure meeting at The Lodge in Carfraemill earlier this month, Lord Glennie, who is Scotland’s principal commercial judge and lives near Oxton, argued that proceedings “should be stopped to save time and money”. The meeting heard that RWE’s application, rejected by Scottish Borders Council in July 2010, was to construct 23 turbines of “nominally” 3MW each.

However, the energy firm’s environmental statement describes the impact of 23 turbines of “about” 2.3MW each, which Mr Onn ruled was not within the scope of 3MW. But RWE argued the wind farm as a whole would not generate more than 69MW, as is stated in its application.

John Williams, who represents the local community councils opposed to the Rowantree development, called the environmental information inadequate and now fears, if permission is granted, that the turbines could be bigger than those previously modelled on the site.

He told TheSouthern: “The applicants will attempt to satisfy the inquiry that they can meet the noise requirements with turbines rated at 2.3MW. If they succeed in this and gain planning permission they may later erect turbines of up to 3MW each, in line with the total output of 69MW and hope for the best. It will then be up to local residents to try to do something about this if the subsequent noise does indeed breach the conditions set.

“The turbines may also be bigger than the ones used to model the visual look of the wind farm. This will make a travesty of the planning process and we all know that trying to stop an operating wind farm will be almost impossible.

“The reporter already has grave doubts about this. He must stand firm and insist that the applicants make absolutely clear what they are actually applying to put up.”

Further environmental information was submitted at the meeting by RWE, but the failure to advertise it meant that, due to the availability of witnesses, the inquiry could now be heard as late as May 2012, when it was originally due to take place next month.

Further submissions from all parties will be made in the coming weeks for the reporter’s consideration, ahead of next year’s inquiry.

A RWE spokesman said: “Arrangements have now been made to re-advertise the further environmental information (FEI) in both the local press (Southern Reporter) and Edinburgh Gazette for a two-week period.

“Following advertisement, a 28-day period commences for any comments to be lodged to the Department of Environmental Appeal (DPEA) in relation to the FEI submission.

“Parties at the inquiry requested further time to consider the FEI and make appropriate responses. All parties, including RWE npower renewables, were in agreement to this extension.

“RWE considers the environmental statement, submitted as part of the application process, meets the requirements of the appropriate environmental regulations.”

Councillor Nicholas Watson, who is due to be a witness at the public inquiry, said: “This is not just a delay for technical reasons. The developer has had months to correct the environmental reports, but they still don’t relate properly to what they intend to build.

“People, especially those living close to the development, must have a proper opportunity to judge how their lives would be affected by this massive scheme.”