THE tide seems to be turning against the controversial proliferation of wind farms in the central Borders.
On Monday, the planning committee of Scottish Borders Council took just half-an-hour to unanimously reject a bid for eight huge turbines at Broadmeadows, just west of Selkirk and close to the Southern Upland Way.
The resolve of councillors to protect one of the region’s most stunning landscapes was stiffened by the decision in April of Scottish Government Reporter Robert Maslin to dismiss an appeal by Swedish-based Vattenfall whose plans for 12 turbines at Minch Moor, just two miles west of the Broadmeadows site, had been rebuffed at Newtown.
A frustrating run of local decisions being overturned at national level included Toddleburn at Oxton and Halkburn (Long Park) near Stow, both of which are now operational, and Langhope Rig at Ashkirk.
But before Minch Moor, the Scottish Government upheld the refusal of eight turbines at Dunion Hill near Jedburgh.
And after Monday’s decision, a plea was made to unsuccessful Broadmeadows developer Greenpower, which is based in Alloa, to “go away with good grace” and not lodge an appeal.
It came from Stuart Bell, secretary of Clovenfords Community Council.
“The planning committee agreed with its own officers that, like Minch Moor, the Broadmeadows proposal would have an unacceptable visual impact and be out-of-scale with the landscape,” said Mr Bell. “If anything, the Broadmeadows site is less acceptable.
“We hope the applicant will now listen to the chorus of local voices against the application, and will respect the decision of our elected councillors, which was based on a very critical report.
“We hope Greenpower will save its money and our time and not appeal against this decision. We’ve struggled with this for seven years; I hope that the applicant will now, with good grace, go away.”
The Broadmeadows proposal was, indeed, first mooted in 2004 and the firm had since reduced the scale of its operation from 13 to eight turbines.
After Monday’s meeting, Colin Potter, Greenpower’s development manager, expressed “disappointment” at the decision, adding: “Our application was refused despite their being no objections from statutory consultees and the project having 280 letters of support, including expressions of support from local businesses.
“We want to thank those who have provided support for the project. We will now be reviewing the decision in detail and considering the next steps.
There were indeed 280 supporting letters, but there were also 231 objections and, significantly, the community councils of Selkirk, Ettrick and Yarrow and Clovefords were all against the proposal.
It was the high visibility of the development which was at the nub of the dissent and slides were shown on Monday which indicated the Broadmeadows turbines would be seen from a wide range of diverse locations, including Selkirk Golf Course, Yarrowford, Clovenfords and Bowhill.
The windmills would also create a new landscape for motorists, walkers and cyclists using the key tourist route of the A708 from St Mary’s Loch to Selkirk.
And the structures would dominate the hill behind the landmark Newark Castle, a 15th century fortress near Yarrowford and an A-listed building.
Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre expressed concern that Historic Scotland had not objected over the adverse impact on the castle and the committee later agreed that chairman Jock Houston should write to the Scottish Government agency to seek an explanation.
“The landscape of the Borders is our greatest asset, after the people,” said Mrs Riddell-Carre. “It is a huge attraction for people who visit here.
“If a picture tells a thousand words, then an exhaustive site visit, which this committee undertook, tells a million. If this was to go ahead, it would be the march of the giants.”
Councillor Gavin Logan, who lives in Clovenfords, highlighted the visibility of the turbines from the A72, a busy arterial route for visitors, from his village to The Nest.
“There have recently been significant job losses in the Borders and that places more importance than ever on the need to encourage tourism. A windfarm in this location would scar a beautiful, stress-free part of the Borders.
“I have no doubt this proposal is even worse than Minch Moor, the Dunion and Long Park and all for a feeble amount of electricity.”
The committee agreed that the proposal breached longstanding council policies on landscape protection and the new supplementary planning guidance which was approved last month.
Explicit in the latter document is the need to ensure wind farm plans “are not allowed to a degree which will cause unacceptable damage to the landscape, tourism and the local economy”.