Heriot wind farm plan goes to appeal

THE Scottish Government will decide the fate of a 16-turbine wind farm near Heriot after an appeal was lodged with the Holyrood administration.

Plans, which include seven turbines within Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) boundaries and nine in Midlothian’s area, were thrown out by the local authorities.

But applicants RidgeWind Limited have taken the fight to the Scottish Government for both sections of the development.

SBC has 21 days to respond to the appeal, followed by the appointment of a reporter to decide the case.

Councillors rejected the application for a site near Gilston Farm on the Borders side of the boundary in December, just days after Midlothian turned down the other half of the renewable energy scheme on Fala Moor.

Although the proposed 170-hectare location lies outwith designated landscapes and conservation areas, Borders councillors were told the western edge would have been adjacent to the Fala Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Fala Moor Area of Great Landscape Value. There were also concerns about run-off into the River Tweed catchment, as well as the scheme’s proximity to the Roman road of Dere Street and the site of the medieval hospital at Soutra Aisle.

And fears were expressed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) about the impact on the regionally-important black grouse population.

Other birds the RSPB felt would be affected by the 115 metre-high turbines were pink-footed geese, wading birds and large heath butterfly, with the area one of only 18 recorded sites in the Borders the species inhabits.

In addition, the surrounding community councils of Heriot, and Oxton and Channelkirk both opposed the bid.

As a result, councillors backed a recommendation from its planning department to refuse the application.

However, RidgeWind argued the development would boost local community coffers through its benefit payments of an estimated £100,000 per year.

The firm said significant employment for Borderers would be created through the project, as well as providing business for local hostelries and added that any environmental impacts would be reduced by the company to acceptable levels.