The company behind a major wind farm application close to Bonchester Bridge has come under fire from community leaders over a negative assessment of Hawick and the surrounding area.
Leeds-based Energiekontor UK wants to erect 12 wind turbines at Pines Burn on the Harwood Estate.
As part of its application, the company had to submit a local profile, presenting an overview of the local economy in Teviot and Liddesdale, and Hawick in particular, but the company’s assessment, based on official statistics, appears to have backfired.
It has been attacked by community leaders for being “extraordinarily brutal”, highlighting as it does falling populations, high levels of child poverty, negative crime statistics and the loss of traditional industry.
The lengthy and detailed appraisal has angered Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer as he believes the figures fail to represent the many positive aspects of Hawick today, including the arrival of a new distillery and two major supermarket retailers, the 3G pitch at Volunteer Park and the ongoing work to transform Wilton Lodge Park.
Duncan Taylor, project manager with Energiekontor, said the firm understood the concerns raised and pledged it would be a good neighbour to the local community.
But Mr McAteer thinks the statement risks stirring up hostility to an application previously perceived as “slightly less provocative” than the six other potential wind farm sites earmarked for the area.
He said: “Their recent insensitive and unnecessarily selective use of socioeconomic data to support their planning application has generated a very hostile reaction.
“While the statistics may paint a poor picture of our town, the reality is quite different, with new business, industry and leisure facilities combining to reverse declining trends.
“The Energiekontor team has been encamped in the area for the best part of 12 months, and it is surprising they have failed to fully understand and appreciate the unique character of our townsfolk and community.
“One thing is certain – if successful, they may be able to inject some funding into the community, but by their own figures, no more than three full-time staff will ultimately manage the site, which is hardly likely to change any of the data being used to support their planning application.”
Another critic of the project is Philip Kerr, chairman of Southdean Community Council.
He said: “I am sure these problems in our area are well recognised by all elected representatives, but the summary is extraordinarily brutal, and in the context of a wind farm application doesn’t read well, at least to my eyes.
“It is totally unnecessary to go into quite such detail.
“I am not sure building 12 wind turbines necessarily tackles the issues portrayed either.”
Mr Taylor added: “We understand the concerns that have been raised regarding the socio-economic chapter of the environmental statement.
“People rightly have a sense of pride about their communities, and that is sometimes difficult to represent in facts and figures.
“Our interaction with the community as the scheme has evolved over the last 12 months, however, and has helped our understanding of how the Pines Burn wind farm investment will benefit the local area, which we recognise is one among many investments planned.
“Our offer of shared ownership of the wind farm, and a benefit of £180,000 per year, would be substantial contributions to the local economy.
“We believe anyone who has come to know Energiekontor locally will attest to our values and transparency.
“We want to be good neighbours to the community and will always listen to concerns raised.”