Hermitage Valley wind farm reprieve as firm delays application due to Eskdalemuir station

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CAMPAIGNERS opposing a wind farm near Hermitage Castle have been granted a stay of execution, writes Sally Gillespie.

Renewables developer Infinis, which hopes to put up 20 turbines at Windy Edge, announced it is putting the project on hold for six months. The company cites the moratorium on wind farm planning permission – turbines can affect the Eskdalemuir seismic monitoring station’s work – as the reason for the halt.

A limit – already reached – was set on the number of wind farms that could be erected within a 50km radius of the station. There are ongoing discussions and investigations by the Ministry of Defence, Scottish Government and others on the issue.

In a letter to the Windy Edge Wind Farm Community Liaison Group, Infinis spokesperson Matt Chapman said: “Unresolved issues related to the Eskdalemuir monitoring station and RAF Spadeadam mean that if a planning application was submitted now, it would be unsuccessful. Any further work on the Windy Edge project will now be scaled back until further resolution and clarity is gained on these outstanding issues.”

He told TheSouthern: “Infinis have identified a really good site which has great potential, but until there is more clarity they are holding off.

“They will be maintaining bird surveys and meteorological monitoring masts but keeping everything else suspended.”

He was unable to say how much the company had invested in the site for the 125-metre-high turbines on Braidlie and Sundhope farms.

Hermitage Action Group (HAG) chairman Malcolm McGregor welcomed the news.

He said: “The community is glad there is some sort of breathing space and we hope the Eskdalemuir seismic monitoring site will continue to be a problem. The area is the wrong location for a wind farm. Hermitage Valley is an outstandingly beautiful valley with one of the most important medieval castles in Scotland, and we think the proposal is entirely inappropriate to this locality.”

He criticised Infinis communication with locals.

“It’s nearly a year since we first learned of the proposal. The company has still not made any effort to communicate with the actual residents in the vicinity of the proposed windfarm. It’s very disappointing.”

Mr Chapman denied criticism saying one of the three representatives from the local community council on the community liaison group represented Hermitage specifically.

He said in his letter the company did not expect to be in touch with the liaison group for another six months adding: “It is impossible to predict the timescale for resolution to the defence-related issues, but when a solution is reached we will be undertaking a comprehensive community consultation prior to the site design being finalised.”

Mr McGregor said: “Even though there seems to be this apparent six-month breathing space, we will continue to marshal our forces and try to gain as much support against the proposals and any future application as we can.”

HAG was formed last August and now numbers nearly 40 local campaigners as well as supporters further afield including broadcaster Eric Robson and writer David Elliot, said Mr McGregor.

Clan author, Mr Elliot is donating £5 of every £7.99 copy of his book ordered through the action group to HAG, and he has started an online petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/hermitagecastle/).

An anonymous donation of £2,000 paid for a report on the significance of Hermitage Castle by Stirling University professor of medieval and environmental history, Richard Oram which HAG has sent it to Historic Scotland and Scottish Borders Council’s archaeological officer, Dr Chris Bowles

A programme of HAG fundraising in next six to nine months starts with a concert in Hermitage Hall on May 1. For more information contact Mr McGregor at malcolm.rmcgregor@btinternet.com