Fears for Reiver heartland under threat from turbines

Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders
Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders
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BORDER warfare has broken out over the threat to one of the oldest castles in Scotland from a proposed wind farm project in Liddesdale.

Hermitage Castle has stood guard over the valley of the Liddel Water for 400 years – an area described by George Macdonald Fraser in his famous book on the reivers, The Steel Bonnets, as ‘the guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain’.

As such, it is one of the country’s oldest surviving castles, but now Northampton-based energy company Infinis wants to erect 20 giant turbines, each 125m high, on nearby farm land.

It has already submitted a scoping report to Scottish Borders Council, which has also approved the firm’s application for a wind-measuring anemometer mast just a few miles from the castle, on a site christened ‘Windy Edge Wind Farm’.

As reported in TheSouthern in July, the project has already attracted fierce local opposition with the Hermitage Action Group being formed to fight a scheme members claim will spoil one of the most historic areas of the Borders.

Malcolm McGregor, from the Hermitage Action Group which was formed in July, says the views of the castle will be spoiled if the development goes ahead.

“This is a unique area of cultural heritage and landscape value, and one we believe entirely unsuitable for the siting of a wind farm,” he told TheSouthern.

“We are now trying to marshal as many supporters as possible, because if nothing is done we are going to be plagued with this sort of situation over the coming years.”

And the group has support from local Scottish Borders councillor David Paterson, who says tourism in the area could be seriously hampered by the giant turbines. “A lot of people come to see Hermitage Castle and the valley ever year. The whole area is of great historic value, but these turbines would spoil all that.”

Borders historian, author and weaponry expert, Brian Moffatt, who used to live close to the castle, says the landscape surrounding the castle and the wider area of Liddesdale should be much more protected from developers.

“Liddesdale is beautiful and wild. It is famous worldwide. It is iconic and ought to be a protected landscape,” said Mr Moffatt.

“Liddesdale is one of the last untouched prehistoric/medieval landscapes in Britain. It has never been fully surveyed and what has been surveyed has never been fully published.

“The landscape bears the evidence of the full range of historic and indeed prehistoric human occupation. The remains of the homes of the Border reivers still exist in the valleys and hills. They are a resource of immeasurable value to the Borders which will continue to generate tourism for all of the forseeable future. That is where its development potential lies.”

Asked for a comment, Matt Chapman, a spokesman from Selkirk-based Smithy House Associates – consultants working on behalf of Infinis – said it was early days yet.

“We’re just starting the community consultation phase, so it’s only the early stages of the project,” said Mr Chapman.