Plans ditched for tallest wind turbines in Borders

A bid to build a controversial wind farm near Hawick has been ditched after meeting with widespread public opposition.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 19th May 2017, 12:07 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 10:03 pm
Retired Anglican priest Andrew Warburton looking over towards the proposed site for a wind farm at Highlee Hill.
Retired Anglican priest Andrew Warburton looking over towards the proposed site for a wind farm at Highlee Hill.

Hertfordshire-based Renewable Energy Systems sparked a furore in June last year by submitting a planning application for a 13-turbine wind farm at Highlee Hill, near Chesters, on land owned by the Commissioners of the Church of England.

What distinguished the bid from the six other wind farms proposed for southern Roxburghshire was that 11 of its turbines were to be 176m high from base to blade tip – three times as tall as Edinburgh’s Scott Monument.

At the time, a spokesperson for RES claimed the project would be less intrusive than the firm’s original 2014 plans for 37 smaller turbines on the same site.

“Having undertaken a range of engagement activities, we have selected a taller turbine at Highlee which we believe is acceptable within the landscape and will optimise the amount of electricity that can be generated with the fewer turbines,” added the spokesperson.

However, around 130 local residents disagreed with that assessment and submitted formal objections to Scottish Borders Council planners.

And in July last year, 75 people packed into Southdean Hall in Chesters for a community council meeting to register their opposition to the proposed development.

RES has now confirmed that it has withdrawn its planning bid for a site just four miles from the English border at Carter Bar.

In a letter to Philip Kerr, chairman of Southdean Community Council, RES development principal Carolyn Wilson says: “RES has taken the decision to withdraw this planning application.

“The decision has not been taken lightly.

“However, having reviewed the consultation responses to the application against changing market conditions within the wider onshore wind energy industry, RES has decided not to progress with the proposed development.”

Welcoming that decision, Mr Kerr said: “Turbine heights of 176m to make this project economic were always a major source of concern in this community.

“The decision to withdraw the application acknowledges the very detailed and constructive local concerns which were expressed about the adverse impact of such huge overbearing turbines.”

Another opponent of the plan, retired Anglican priest Andrew Warburton, of Newcastleton, also welcomed the decision.

He said: “I am very pleased. This would have been a huge mistake and would have ruined an iconic view in the Borders.

“For people from the south having to pass this gigantic thing, it would have been a terrible welcome to the area.

“I hope this decision creates a precedent for other such developments.

“I am very much in favour of the national park idea to combine northumberland and here across the border. It’s such a beautiful area.”

New Hawick provost Watson McAteer, also a councillor for Hawick and Hermitage, agreed, saying: “News that the Highlee wind farm application has been permanently withdrawn will be music to the ears of many living in the southern Borders, particularly residents in Chesters and Bonchester Bridge.

“Turbine heights of 176m would have blotted our historic landscape for miles around and, I have no doubt, negatively impacted on our visitor numbers to Hawick and the surrounding countryside.

“The local communities were particularly vocal objectors to a scheme they considered to be flawed from the outset, and it is great that their genuine concerns have finally been listened to.

“While renewable energy is in everyone’s interest, wind turbines cannot be allowed to spring up across our Borderlands simply to suit those interested in making a substantial financial profit.”

Council planners received more than 100 objections from residents fearful that the wind farm would blight the countryside as well as damaging tourism.