Wind farm firm back with scaled down Devil’s Beef Tub project

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REVISED plans for a huge wind farm in one of the most scenic areas of southern Scotland have been lodged with the Scottish Government, writes Andrew Keddie.

It is the second time in the last three years that the company Wind Energy has sought consent a development at Earlshaugh, close to spectacular geological landmark, the Devil’s Beef Tub.

The site is in the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) area, five miles from Moffat, four miles from Tweedsmuir and within a designated area of great landscape value. It is covered by the River Tweed special area of conservation.

But SBC is not the ultimate decision-maker because the output of the wind farm will be more than 50MW. The Energy and Climate Change Directorate of the Scottish Government makes the decision.

SBC’s planning committee unanimously agreed, as a statutory consultee, to object to the bid for 36 giant turbines at the site in January, 2009. Scottish Natural Heritage also dissented.

The company was allowed to reconsider its application in the light of the strong objections and last month submitted plans to Holyrood for 24 turbines.

Ed Maddox, project director for Wind Energy, said: “We have made a number of modifications to our original Earlshaugh wind farm proposal.

“Most significantly, we have scaled back the size of the scheme. This new layout will greatly reduce the visual impact of the development, in addition to improving other aspects of the project.

“We have held public exhibitions on four occasions over the last few years to present our project to residents and we have listened to feedback about our proposals.”

SBC local planning officer Ian Aikman said this week his council did not consider the deadline set for the council’s response – September 16 – to be adequate for a development of such scale when the devil will be in the detail.

“We have managed to get this deadline extended so councillors will meet to discuss their reaction to the modified application on November 18,” he said. “If the the planning committee decides it still believes the proposal is unacceptable on landscape grounds, then the government must hold a public inquiry. I do not expect this application to be determined before next summer.”

David Mundell, the Tory MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, remains implacably opposed to the bid.

“I am sorry to see this application resubmitted,” he said. “I share the view frequently expressed by constituents that this is an entirely inappropriate location for a wind farm.

“The proposal would change the visual setting of the Beef Tub which is a stunning feature of huge important to the tourist trade, especially in attracting walkers. It is also too close to the important landscape at the source of the River Tweed.

“What needs to be taken into considereation is the cumulative impact of this development when it is considered alongside the hugh Clyde Wind Farm [150 turbines in south Lanarkshire] very close to the Earlshaugh site.”

To find out more about the Wind Energy plans, go to www.earlshaugh.com.

The Devil’s Beef Tub is a dramatic hollow in the hills, 500ft deep. Its name derives from its use by the Border Reivers to hide stolen cattle.

In 1685, fleeing covenanter John Hunter attempted to escape pursuing dragoons by running up the steep side of the Beef Tub. He failed, was shot dead on the spot and is buried in Tweedsmuir kirkyard. A monument to Hunter stands on the southwest rim of the Beef Tub.