Fallago under fire – again

Scottish Ministers recently announced the welcome re-opening of a Public Inquiry into the 48 turbine wind farm at Fallago Rig. It thus came as a surprise, when walking in the Lammermuir Hills, to find construction had, apparently, started.

Contractor’s signage littered the site and borrow pits have been excavated with hundreds of tonnes of stone dug out of a site officially designated an Area of Great Landscape Value. Huge stone platforms have been constructed at various points along the Dye Water, perhaps to support the bridges that would support the delivery of the 48 huge turbines? New fords have been driven through the Dye.

This may, or may not, be a breach of the various planning regulations but, with all of this construction effort taking place, at undoubtedly significant expense, just weeks before the Public Inquiry, it poses one key question? Do developers North British Windpower Limited, and landowner the Roxburghe Estates, know something that we don’t?

Is it possible that with a Public Inquiry yet to sit, and the Reporter’s recommendation yet to be given, that developer, landowner and Scottish ministers already know what that decision will be? Perhaps there is something we are not being told. After all, the Scottish Government will not release the details of the last Public Inquiry, even though we all know that the Reporter’s recommendation to ministers was a clear rejection of the Fallago Rig wind farm application.

Government appears to enjoy a cosy and comfortable relationship with wind farm developers. Freedom of Information requests have recently revealed that the chairman of North British Windpower wrote to Cabinet Secretary John Swinney on the July 8, 2008 to say: “We very much appreciated the time and interest you took in the MoD problem last week and were encouraged by your concern ... if you would like any further information or a working lunch please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

Encouragement must have been in the air, because on February 28, 2008, he’d also written to energy minister Jim Mather after a conference to say: “I certainly found it useful and enjoyed meeting you. It was particularly encouraging for me to hear of your enthusiasm for clarity, accountability and delivering the renewables programme: while it will of course be you who makes the decision on our wind farm at Fallago Rig, I had been worrying that a middle ranking officer from deep in the MoD might hold undue sway.”

Good to hear Mr Wilkins feel less worried eh?

On July 2, 2008, Roxburghe Estates issued a press release stating: “Swinney opens pioneering renewable energy scheme at Roxburghe Estates”.

Cabinet secretary Swinney welcomed the new biomass facility noting: “This is exactly the type of project I want to see in communities across Scotland – innovative renewable energy generation which tackles climate change and promotes and promotes sustainable forest management.”

The Duke was so delighted that the minister had turned on his brand new central heating system, he said: “At Roxburghe, we are committed to playing our part in energy efficiency and support a mix of renewable energy resources. We are also involved in a joint venture to establish a 144MW wind farm, which, if approved, will deliver significant, sustainable benefits...”

Unusually, for a government not shy about issuing press releases, no news item for this occasion was posted on the Scottish Government website.

Surely it is now time for someone other than these ministers, who are clearly far too closely involved in the process, to look into how decision making on wind farms is carried out, as the murky world of wind farm development doesn’t just threaten our landscape, but our planning system, and much more, too?

Fallago rigged? You decide.

Mark Rowley