Holyrood hopefuls face ‘wind farm hustings’

WITH Scottish Government targets to increase renewable energy generation underpinning a spate of wind farm developments, operating or proposed, in the northern part of the region, concerned residents will get a chance next Thursday to quiz those seeking election to Holyrood on May 5.

The first ever “wind farm hustings” will take place in Lauder Public Hall next Thursday at 7pm.

Organised by Lauderdale Community Council, the event will bring together would-be MSPs, including incumbents Jeremy Purvis (Lib Dem) and Christine Grahame (SNP) – who will do battle in the new consitutency of Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale – to face questions on their policy over wind farm developments if they hold the strings of power after May.

Also attending will be Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont whose constituency has also been targeted by wind farm companies.

Former community council vice-chairman Graham Donald said the meeting was “vitally important” to those living in the A68/A7 corridor.

“People feel bloated with wind,” said Mr Donald, who hopes the meeting will also attract members of Scottish Borders Council whose planning committee, also in May, is due to adopt supplementary planning guidance (SPG) on wind farm developments – a draft has already been published.

One notable attender at the hustings will be John Williams, who has been seconded by Heriot Community Council, to lobby decision-makers at national and local levels to stem the tide of wind farms.

In January, he wrote to all 34 elected members of SBC demanding that the new SPG truly reflects the aim stated in the draft: to “ensure wind farm proposals are not allowed to a degree which will cause irreparable damage to the landsacape, tourism and, consequently, the Scottish Borders economy”.

He claims that if a line were drawn from Longpark South near Galashiels to Gilston in the north, there are nine wind farms, comprising 191 turbines, operating or with planning consent over 16.5 kilometres. The notable exception is at Rowantree, between Lauder and Heriot, where 23 turbines, are proposed. That application, in the gift of the Scottish Government because the capacity exceeds 50MW, will be the subject of a public inquiry in September, having been recommended for refusal by SBC.

“It won’t stop there,” warned Mr Williams. “Unless this is stopped, future visitors to the Borders driving up from, say, Coldstream will start to see wind farms as they approach Lauder, but when they swing round past Wanton Walls, they will then see on the western horizon a continuous chain of wind farms all the way until they cross Soutra Hill – and that is a 10-mile drive.

“It will be Wind Farm City: an industrial landscape all that way. It is difficult to imagine a more important issue for the Borders.”

A public exhibition is being held today in Westruther on the latest wind farm proposal – for 10 turbines at Brunta Hill on farmland just north west of the village – for which PNE Wind UK is due to seek formal planning consent next month.

The event, in the village hall, runs from 3.30 till 8pm.

A PNE spokesman said: “Since our first public exhibitions last September and the completion of environmental studies, we have made a number of signficiant changes, revising the proposal of 11 turbines to a 10-turbine layout with a reduced footprint and a new access route.

“This follow-up session gives the public the opportunity to ask our team further questions before we submit our planning application.”