Plans for an £8m wind farm at Barrel Law, north west of Roberton, have been rejected by councillors.
The proposals would have seen seven turbines up to 132m in height erected on land next to the existing Langhope Rig wind farm.
The company behind the plans, ABO Wind UK, has faced opposition from residents, community councils and Scottish Borders councillors ever since it first announced its intention to develop the site in 2012.
The council’s initial rejection of those plans in 2013 was prompted by concerns voiced by the Ministry of Defence over possible interference with its radar systems at the Spadeadam Royal Air Force base, near Brampton in Cumbria.
The firm’s plans were subsequently revised and reduced from eight turbines to seven, prompting the MoD to withdraw its objections and officers in Scottish Borders Council’s planning department to recommend approval.
The council’s planning and building standards committee took a different view at its meeting today, however.
Speaking in favour of rejecting the plans again, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “I think what it really boils down to is whether the impacts are adverse, significant and unacceptable.
“Scottish Natural Heritage talks about the impacts at the nearby reservoir as being significant and adverse.
“The environmental assessment talks about the impact at the William Ogilvie cairn, near Borthwickshiels, as being significant and adverse, so it really comes down to if these significant and adverse impacts are also unacceptable, although what I find unacceptable may differ to what someone else may find unacceptable. It’s subjective.
“The officers and the consultees have expressed reservations, even though they might not have objected.
“I think when you join together all these different aspects – of the reservoir, of the William Ogilvie cairn, the cumulative and residential impacts – in my view, that makes this application unacceptable.”
A report put to the committee revealed that 75 comments had been submitted to the council about the project, all but one of them objections.
The council also received objections from six community councils responsible for land that would have been within sight of the wind farm, and Hawick and Hermitage councillors Davie Paterson and Watson McAteer also registered their opposition.
The latter wrote to fellow councillors imploring them to reject the bid, saying: “This application is a test, and should this authority grant the application, it is in danger of sending a signal to all developers that rejection is simply a temporary setback and that after some fine-tuning, re-application is likely to be successful.
“This approach is debilitating for fragile communities being worn down by commercial enterprises that bring financial muscle to a process destined to create overproliferation, landscape desecration and wind turbine blight in a naturally beautiful area of the Borders.
“Those I represent can see no valid reason why the previous rejection is not equally valid today, and it is your responsibility to ensure that this community is listened to.
“It is quite ridiculous that those who live and nurture this area are once again being called to fight to protect a precious environment that includes a perilous roads network from a profit-centred business with no interest in the effect their development will have on such a historic rural community.”
Not all councillors opposed the development, however, with East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing proposing a motion to support the officers’ recommendations and approve the application, andTweeddale East councillor Eric Small seconded it.
Ms Laing said the revised plans were a big improvement on the 2012 application, adding: “I think there has been a significant change to what they have proposed.
“I do have my concerns, particularly around the impact on nearby properties, but, on balance, I am supportive of the officers’ recommendations. There are lots of advantages to this.”
The other five members of the committee voted to reject the proposals, however.
Speaking after the meeting, ABO Wind UK’s head of development, Clark Crosbie, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the council’s planning committee.
“We were especially disappointed with the decision given that the application was presented at the planning committee with no objections from any of the statutory consultees and was recommended for approval.
“We will now review the decision in detail before considering our next steps.”
“We have worked very closely and collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders over the past few years to develop this project, and we believe very strongly that it complied with all relevant technical and planning requirements.
“The site is located well outside the area being discussed for a proposed Borders national park, has good wind resource, a readily available electricity grid connection, proven turbine delivery route and is relatively isolated.
“It is also located in an area identified in the council’s finalised renewable energy supplementary guidance, dated March 2018, as having the highest capacity for wind turbine development.”