I was both intrigued and confused after reading the front-page article in last week’s issue of TheSouthern headed “Wind farms facing fresh restrictions”.
It seemed somewhat strange to learn that our local authority, controlled jointly by a group of SNP councillors, was considering a crackdown if not a complete moratorium on future wind turbine projects on the grounds that our beautiful Borders countryside was already badly blighted by what many regard as industrial structures.
One assumes the SNP members on Scottish Borders Council have signed up to this potential game changer despite their own party’s national policy which promotes all things renewable, not least on-shore wind farms.
Apparently, the reason for the council’s possible revised stance follows a significant number of submissions from concerned Borders residents after they read the local authority’s local development plan, Main Issues Report (MIR). It is certainly encouraging to see public opinion having an impact for a change.
But one wonders if our councillors – the SNP members in particular – paid heed to one submission in particular before embarking on the potentially controversial pathway to a total reversal of current policies on wind farms. That submission was lodged by the Scottish Government, and the sentiments expressed make it crystal clear our national rulers certainly do not accept that the Borders is overendowed with intrusive turbines.
In a strident comment under the heading Climate Change, the Victoria Quay mandarins – or the Directorate for Local Government and Communities (Planning and Architecture Division) to give them their official designation – pull no punches.
According to their letter to the council: “We are disappointed with the negative language used in the MIR around renewables and, in particular, on-shore wind energy, which does not appear to be in the spirit of the SPP (Scottish Planning Policy).
“While the MIR has taken account of potential adverse impacts, we are concerned that authorities should also recognise the positive benefits of wind energy developments both to address climate change and for the local and Scottish economy. It is regrettable that the only alternative option suggested is a negative one stating that the Borders landscape is at saturation point for wind turbines.”
The document goes on to say: “We would welcome discussion with you about the content of your current policy. We will contact you shortly to arrange a suitable time to discuss these matters.” Shades of Big Brother? Surely not.
Nevertheless it will be interesting to see whether Borders SNP councillors defy their own party if a virtual ban on windmills is the preferred option. And will our council have the bottle to stand up to their paymasters if push comes to shove?