Borders wind farm developer setting sights higher

How the wind farm would look.
How the wind farm would look.

The developer behind the controversial Pines Burn wind farm south of Hawick has been accused of gaining permission “by the back door” after submitting an application to raise the agreed height of nearly half of its turbines.

Leeds-based developer Energiekontor UK was given the go-ahead for seven 149.9m and five 130m-high turbine scheme on the Harwood Estate, near Bonchester Bridge, on appeal in August after members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee rejected the scheme.

Now Energiekontor wants to vary conditions of that approval to allow all 12 turbines to stand at 149.9m – just 10cm below the height at which aircraft lighting would be required.

It’s also seeking permission to site each turbine up to 100m from the locations previously specified.

In an application submitted to the council’s planning department, the firm states that as public subsidies have now been withdrawn, larger turbines are required for the project to be economically viable. It claims that the increase in visibility of the proposed scheme compared to the consented scheme would be “very minor”.

In his report, project manager Duncan Taylor said: “When looking at the array as a whole, the height difference is hardly noticeable as the majority of the array is unchanged.

“The increase in height of the five turbines and their micro-siting has a negligible impact upon the overall compositions.”

But Southdean Community Council has questioned why Energiekontor didn’t apply for 12 149.9m-high turbines in the first place.

Chairman Philip Kerr said: “Why did the applicants not apply for turbines of the size now proposed if that is what they wanted?

“They have, in effect, acquired permission in principle from a reporter by the back door of applying for something smaller than they really wanted and now seek to apply for what they really required all along.”

The community council says the changes will cause a greater visual and noise impact, especially on nearby properties.

Its objection to the council says: “It looks rather like a cynical approach whereby changes are introduced after permission is granted which would have jeopardised the chances of success had they been in the application.”

Energiekontor had initially wanted to build seven 158.5m-high turbines but agreed to reduce that height after Scottish Natural Heritage raised concerns about the aviation safety lighting that would be required.

That move failed to win over councillors, and they rejected the scheme in November 2017, saying it would have an adverse impact on the landscape and nearby historical sites, but reporter Malcolm Mahony overturned the local authority’s decision, stating that the project’s benefits would outweigh any impacts on landscape or tourism.