Plans for eight-turbine wind farm near Heriot given the thumbs-down

Plans for a wind farm near Heriot have been thrown out by councillors concerned about the visual impact it would have if given the thumbs-up.

Energiekontor UK’s hopes of erecting eight 130m-tall turbines just off of the A7 at Wull Muir have been thwarted by both councillors and officers, as well as an objection from the Ministry of Defence.

Though the village’s 250-odd residents were split in opinion, the application garnering 12 letters of support and nine against, all but one councillor rejected the plans.

Speaking against the application at Monday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee, Heriot Community Council chairman John Williams said: “We have been against this application from the off and been heavily criticised by some local residents for taking this stance, but we do not consider this acceptable.

“It is our duty to represent the interests of the whole community, not just landowners and supporters.”

Mr Williams went on to argue that the revised application, which sees the turbines moved slightly back within the site to reduce the visual impact on view from the north, would still have too big a visual impact to be acceptable.

That change in position did lead to an objection by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency being dropped but also saw a new one from the MoD being lodged, meaning that even if councillors had been minded to approve, the plans would still have to go to the Scottish Government.

The MoD now says three of the turbines are too close to its radar at Deadwater Fell and that could cause potential interference, leading to increased workloads and significant operational impacts.

Plans for the site, 3km north-west of Heriot and bordering Midlothian, have also attracted objections from the council there, the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Julie Aitken, of Leeds-based developer Energiekontor UK, argued that Mr Williams’ stance and those of other objectors did not accurately reflect that of the entire community, though.

Reading out a statement from one fully supportive resident, highlighting a £4m community fund which would span the project’s 25-year life, and suggesting a £5.2m boost for the economy.

“We are also working with the MoD to find a solution to their objection,” she added.

That wasn’t enough to sway the committee into going against officers’ recommendations, however.

“We do want to see wind farms but have to be aware of the cumulative impact and think carefully about where we put them,” Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage said.

“The Ministry of Defence issue is a big enough one for me to agree that the officers’ have got this recommendation right.”

Only East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing said she could have been swayed into backing the application.

She added: “In terms of the climate change emergency situation we are in, we cannot ignore this. That sometimes means we have to make unpopular choices, but we need to take a leadership role when it comes to climate change.”