A bid to extend the lifespan of the Fallago Rig wind farm by five years has been given the thumbs-up by Scottish ministers, however.
Energy firm EDF Renewables had wanted to add an extra 12 turbines up to 127m tall to the 48 operational there for the last seven years to increase its potential power output from 144 megawatts to 185.
Its application has been rejected, though, as ministers have upheld planning reporter David Russell’s conclusion that increasing the number of turbines would have too big an adverse visual impact to be offset by any plus points.
In a report written in July 2018 but not published until now, he writes: “Due to their height, elevation and siting in relation to the topographical bowl within which the existing Fallago Rig wind farm is located, the additional turbines would magnify, intensify and extend its landscape and visual effects.
“While the landscape and visual effects of the existing wind farm had been found to be acceptable at the time of its approval, those arising from the additional turbines, as proposed, would be significantly detrimental when combined with the existing wind farm and would not be consistent with many of the objectives and principles on which its design had been based.
“Protecting the landscape is one of the principles identified in Scottish planning policy for assessing whether a development would contribute to sustainable development. I find that, in this regard, the proposed development would not so contribute.
“My findings of significantly detrimental landscape and visual effects arising from the proposed additional turbines would indicate that approval of the proposed development would not be consistent with Scottish Borders council’s local development plan unless the potential damage is considered to be outweighed by wider economic, environmental or other benefits.
“I do not consider that it can be found that the applicants have done what they reasonably can to mitigate the adverse effects of siting these additional, taller turbines towards, or beyond, the top of the topographical bowl in which the existing wind farm is located.
“This is because the design approach did not examine the effects of using shorter towers for the turbines in the most prominent positions – that would have replicated the approach taken in the design of the existing wind farm – and they did not consider the omission of turbines which would be located beyond the top of the topographical bowl.”
It’s now 15 years since the first application for the wind farm was lodged with Scottish Borders Council planners, prompting a lengthy campaign opposing it.
Those campaigners were forced to concede defeat in 2011 after a Court of Session ruling paved the way for the development, approved by Scottish ministers the year before, to proceed.
It was only three years after the wind farm, five miles north-west of Westruther, started operating in 2013 that the bids now rejected to expand it and extend its lifespan were submitted.
The council opposed those follow-up plans, leaving the Scottish Government to have the final say.
Seven of the wind farm’s current turbines, all generating up to 3mw of power, are 110m high and the other 41 are 15m taller.
They had been due to cease operating in 2038, but that has now been put back to 2043 after ministers overruled Mr Russell’s recommendation that a bid by the French-based firm’s Houghton-le-Spring office, near Sunderland, be rejected.
Operation and maintenance of the existing wind farm costs £2.9m a year and supports 11 full-time jobs.
It was estimated that construction of the extra turbines proposed would cost up to £18.2m and that further jobs would be created once they were up and running.