Fresh guidance for wind farm plans

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SCOTTISH Borders Council, between the rock of renewable energy targets and the hard place of residents who feel the region already has more than its fair share of turbines, has unveiled updated guidelines to govern future planning applications for wind farms, writes Andrew Keddie.

“We do feel trapped,” admitted Councillor Jock Houston, chairman of SBC’s planning committee, after the so-called supplementary planning guidance (SPG) was adopted last week.

“There is a clear conflict between the amenity of the wonderful environment we have inherited and the high winds which make parts of this region so attractive to wind farm developers.

“Hopefully this guidance will give comfort to Borderers that we are trying to strike a balance, offering clearer advice to both applicants and residents.”

The SPG takes note of major concerns regarding the number of wind farm proposals in the region and the increasing size of individual turbines.

“It is designed to ensure wind farm plans are not allowed to a degree which will cause unacceptable damage to the landscape, tourism and the local economy,” said a statement issued after last week’s committee meeting.

“SBC believes this will be useful to potential wind farm developers as well as opponents of schemes and other interested parties. As part of the guidance, local areas of significant protections, areas with other constraints, including historical environments and those with aviation/defence issues and broad areas of search which might be suitable for wind farms are identified.

“Future wind farm applications will be processed and determined taking account of this advice which gives guidance on both large and small-scale developments.”

Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, SBC’s executive member for planning and the environment, told us: “This is one of the most important pieces of work the council has undertaken in recent years.

“There is widespread concern about where turbines are built in the Borders ...this updated guidance considers issues such as the impact on iconic viewpoints, important transport corridors and walking routes, as well as the cumulative impact of wind farms.”