DEVELOPERS have lodged plans for a six-turbine wind farm at Spurlens Rig near Leadburn, writes Sally Gillespie.
Lomond Energy is offering the local community the chance to buy one of the turbines and make £3million over its lifespan – but the Association to Protect the Environment at Leadburn (APEAL) is against the development.
It says: “This site is simply not suitable for industrial wind turbines due to their inherent visual impact, noise pollution and environmental disturbance and destruction.
“The wind turbines proposed are twice as high as the Scott Monument in Edinburgh and the Soutra Hill turbines. They will tower over the Moorfoot Hills and will be visible as far away as Kirkcaldy in Fife.”
Lomond Energy says if people in surrounding Lamancha, Eddleston and Howegate can raise the one-off cost of £700,000 for a turbine, they would make £120,000 a year from it and be the first local community in the Borders to have a direct stake in a wind farm.
The Gartochan-based operation says the £700,000 would cover construction, maintenance, insurance and decommissioning. And it hopes Scottish Borders Council will give the go-ahead for the turbines, which have a 12-15 megawatt capacity, on the site south-west of Leadburn.
But APEAL fear the visual impact of the structures and is concerned for local residents and wildlife.
The activists criticise the renewable company’s scoping report which says the turbines would be visible over a small area.
APEAL argues: “This is utter nonsense. The turbines will be seen from large parts of Midlothian, including parts of Edinburgh, East Lothian and even from sea level in Fife. The sheer size of them destroys the developer’s claim of visual containment.”
The protesters say also that the site is “far too close to a number of homes” and point to independent studies showing turbines are noisy and cause problems with shadow flicker.
“The consensus view from these independent reports is that the distance from turbines to houses should be at least 2km. At Spurlens Rig the nearest house will be only 1km away at most ... If this proposal goes ahead local residents’ amenity and quality of life will be seriously affected.”
The group have recorded rare birds at Spurlens Rig, including the hen harrier, skylark and house sparrow, all on the Royal Society for the Protection of Bird’s red (highest) list of conservation concern, and several others on the charity’s amber list, including the short-eared owl.
APEAL claims: “Most of these birds aren’t even mentioned in the scoping report which states that there is no evidence of short-eared owls and then goes on to mention a dead one was found. Anyone visiting the site last summer at dusk would have seen and heard the owls displaying most evenings for a number of weeks.
“This site is a valuable wildlife resource and should be protected and not destroyed.”
Lomond Energy director Steve Macken said: “We have spent the last three years developing the plan for the project, consulting with local communities and the council and undertaking environmental studies, so it was a great feeling to finally submit the application.
“It is exciting to be a part of a project that is the first of its kind in the Borders. The benefits of renewable energy go beyond the environmental benefits by providing the resources to fund community projects through a significant annual income for the area.”
He said a community liaison forum set up for residents, community groups and businesses to discuss what they want to do with the money would meet for the first time in January. And Lomond Energy will also meet elected representatives, community councils and businesses next month.