The Borders is running out of space for wind farms, according to a report which forms part of a supplementary guidance (SG) on renewable energy, roundly welcomed by councillors last Thursday.
The report by environmental consultant Ironside Farrar looked into the capacity and cumulative impact of the region’s wind energy landscape.
While the consultants found that there are areas in the Borders – namely upland areas in the north, extreme west and south-west – have the highest capacity for more windfarms, being able to accommodate “larger scale turbines in large commercial scale wind farms”, it also adds: “Much of the rest of the Scottish Borders has limited capacity for smaller scale developments, ranging from small clusters of turbines to single turbines”.
However, it states: “Significant areas, including much of the wilder, more distinctive upland areas, prominent hills and scenic or small scale river valleys and the coastline, have little or no capacity for development and areas in which current cumulative development limits the capacity for further development.”
It concludes: “Further development across the Scottish Borders needs careful consideration if undue levels of landscape change are to be avoided.”
The huge report, put together by the regulatory services team at the council, which was put to councillors at the full council meeting, will form part of the development plan for the Scottish Borders, and will help planning officers and councillors make a decision on future applications.
The report covers all types of renewable energy, and has been sent out to public consultation.
The responses received by the council formed part of the report handed to councillors.
One of the objections received came from Jane Bower, from Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage, who said of the SG: “It would seek to turn this area into a landscape of wind turbines. This would drive out even more of the people in an area suffering from depopulation, and discourage even the low level of tourism which the area currently experiences.”
The council’s response granted that the study did identify the area as being able to “absorb” more and larger turbines, however, it added: “Such proposals would be tested by planning applications and cumulative impact and other potential issues would be addressed at this stage.”
Renewable energy developer Banks Renewables – which successfully developed and sold a 13-turbine site at Quixmoor near Grantshouse, but so far has been unsuccseessful in applying for a 15-turbine site at Birneyknowe – also objected.
Its response stated: “The elements of the draft SG relating to wind farms are written in a very negative manner. They have not been written in the spirit of encouraging further onshore wind farm development within the Scottish Borders, putting it at odds with the suite of documents the Scottish Government published ... which all encourage further onshore wind farm development to ensure that the targets set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act can be meet (sic) at the lowest cost.”
The council replied: “It is strongly disagreed that the text is written in a negative manner. Banks Renewables’ response completely ignores the need to strike a balance between supporting renewable energy and given weighting to protecting the landscape and protecting the environment.”
At the meeting councillor Tom Miers, executive member for planning and environment, congratulated the officers involved in the report.
He said: “I have no hesitation in recommending to members that we approve this report.”
Councillor Mark Rowley said: “I have read this report in great detail, and I can see just how detailed this work has been.
“It’s a brilliant piece of work and it gives us a fresh go-to document for anyone debating these issues.”
The report was approved unanimously.