Borders MP David Mundell has hit out at the Scottish Government’s decision to give the thumbs-up to controversial plans for a wind farm near Tweedsmuir.
Both Ettrick and Yarrow and Upper Tweed community councils were opposed to the proposals, first submitted three years ago, and Scottish Borders Council rejected them twice.
Government reporters David Buylla and Claire Milne have overruled unanimous opposition to the bid, however, and upheld Greenock-based 2020 Renewables’ appeal, granting it permission to put up 14 turbines on an 820-hectare site at Whitelaw Brae, three kilometres south of Tweedsmuir.
The turbines, capable of producing 50 megawatts of power, would be up to 134m tall.
They would be less than four kilometres away from South Lanarkshire’s 152-turbine Clyde wind farm, near Abington.
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP Mr Mundell, also Scottish Secretary, said: “I am very angry that the Whitelaw Brae wind farm has been given the green light by the Scottish Government near Tweedsmuir.
“Local people and the local authority were united in their opposition to this major development, but, once again, the Scottish Government has chosen to ignore the views of people living there, with their we-know-best attitude.
“My position on wind farm developments is clear in my constituency – enough is enough.
“This is another development that will harm the tourist industry, which is vital for the local economy, and local people will be wondering if wind farm developments will ever end in this area.
“All too often, the Scottish Government are overturning local planning decisions, which is deeply damaging for local democracy.”
In his original objection, Mr Mundell calculated that the number of wind farms in operation, in construction or already given planning consent mean that Scotland is already two-thirds of the way towards meeting its electricity needs from renewable sources, and if all those in the planning stages were to be approved, their combined output could be up to a third more than Scottish ministers’ stated target.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Wind and other renewable sources play a vital part in meeting Scotland’s energy needs and will continue to do so as we move to a low carbon energy future, but we also have clear policies which make sure that developments only go ahead in the right places.
“Scottish planning policy now provides additional protection for both our national parks and national scenic areas.
“The application for the Whitelaw Brae wind farm was subject to a public local inquiry which considered all potential impacts, including tourism.
“Ministers gave careful consideration and agreed to the reporters’ recommendations to grant consent with conditions.”
Mountaineering Scotland, another of the 84 objectors to register their opposition to the plans, has also hit out at the reporters’ decision.
Its chief executive officer, David Gibson, said: “At a time when the Scottish Government is holding a public consultation about the future of planning policy, this decision demonstrates what is wrong about planning democracy in Scotland.
“The decision also completely ignores the negative impact the development will have on the local tourism industry.
“We’re disappointed, but not surprised, that our own research into tourism impacts has been ignored consistently by developers and those who run the planning system in Scotland.
“Even research promoted by the renewables industry itself now demonstrates that wind farms negatively impact on tourism employment in mountain areas.
“It is disingenuous to put at risk any segment of Scotland’s tourism market such as that dependent upon wild and open landscapes.
“We repeat our call to the Scottish Government that it must commission a study of wind farms, landscape quality and tourism impact from a demonstrably independent research body.
“Pending the outcome of this, the planning system must reset the bar for approval higher for applications for wind farms in locally designated landscape areas.””
Reasons given by Scottish Borders Council for rejecting the application included the negative impact it would have on the landscape of the region.