“WE are overjoyed that common sense has prevailed,” said Stuart Bell, secretary of Clovenfords Community Council this week.
He was reacting to news that the appeal of the renewable energy company wanting to put 12 wind turbines at scenic Minch Moor, just south of Walkerburn and alongside the Southern Upland Way, had been rejected.
Robert Maslin, a reporter with the Scottish Government’s Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals, upheld last August’s decision by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee to reject the bid by Vattenfall Wind Power.
Mr Maslin, who visited the site several times last month, based his conclusion on the “unacceptable landscape and visual effects…which clearly outweigh general support for onshore wind energy development contained in national policy”.
He conceded that wind farms such as Minch Moor are strongly supported by that policy – in September the Scottish Government increased the target for the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020 from 50 per cent to 80 per cent.
But he stressed that the National Planning Framework does not give unconditional backing for wind farms and recognises that environmental quality is one of Scotland’s greatest assets and conserving and enhancing natural heritage are main elements of the strategy.
Councillor Gavin Logan, whose Tweeddale East ward includes Minch Moor, is a member of the planning committee which unanimously rejected the Vattenhall proposal last year.
Mr Logan commented: “Credit should go the SBC officers for the way they defended that local decision, but it must be recognised that the action groups, community councils and some local politicians fought this application vigorously over seven years. It is they who deserve most of the credit.”
An application by Green Power to erect eight turbines at Broadmeadows to the east of the 1,400 hectare Minch site is due to go before councillors in June.
Mr Bell said Mr Maslin had raised hopes the Broadmeadows development would also fail.
He said: “Together, the proposals represented a real threat to a remote and, as yet, unspoilt part of the Borders. We must now put our faith in the wisdom of councillors over Broadmeadows.
“We are overjoyed that common sense has prevailed, the more so since many of the decisions to refuse wind farms by SBC have been overturned on appeal.”
Michelle Ballantyne, chair of Clovenfords Community Council, who was selected last week to represent the Conservatives for the Selkirkshire ward in the 2012 SBC elections, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the reporter recognised the beauty and value of the Southern Upland Way and its surrounding landscape. I hope the same thoughtful, common-sense approach will be applied to Broadmeadows.”
Plans for Minch Moor, on land owned by the Forestry Commission, were submitted in 2003 and by the time SBC’s planning committee considered the proposal in August last year, more than 300 letters of objection had been submitted.
Mr Maslin said: “The landscape from the summit [of Minch Moor] is one of very attractive quality. The proposed wind farm would have a major and detrimental effect on this quality.”
He also said there would be significant adverse effects on views from Broomy Law, the Three Brethren and the Duchess’s Drive on Bowhill Estate.
He added:“I have considered all the other matters put forward by the appellant [Vattenfall] but I find no other material considerations which would justify approval… in the face of the unacceptable landscape and visual effects.”