PLANS for a 16-turbine wind farm straddling the border between the Borders and Midlothian were thrown out by local councillors this week.
Members of Scottish Borders Council planning committee, meeting on Monday, rejected plans for the wind farm on land near Gilston Farm, close to Heriot, from Ridgewind Ltd.
Midlothian Council had already turned down an application for nine turbines as part of the project within its area, leaving SBC to decide the fate of the remaining seven which were proposed for siting within the Borders authority’s boundaries.
The proposed 170-hectare site lies outwith designated landscapes and conservation areas, but the western edge would have been adjacent to the Fala Moor site of special scientific interest and the Fala Moor Area of Great Landscape Value.
There were also concerns about run off into the River Tweed catchment, as well as the scheme’s proximity to the Roman road of Dere Street and the site of the medieval hospital at Soutra Aisle.
The local authority’s landscape architect had also warned of the cumulative visual impact of the proposal when taking into account the existing Dun Law wind farm and the already-consented schemes for Pogbie and Keith Hill.
And there were serious concerns from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds about the impact on the regionally important black grouse population, as well as on pink-footed geese, wading birds and there were also fears for one of only 18 recorded sites in the Borders inhabited by the large heath butterfly.
Community councils for Heriot, and Oxton and Channelkirk, both objected, citing cumulative impact and out of 19 representations lodged, 15 raised objections.
Recommending the application be refused, planners stated five contraventions of council policies.
A refusal by Ridgewind Ltd to remove the turbine proposed for siting nearest Soutra Aisle and uncertainty over the future of a nearby existing tree belt, also lent weight to the decision to turn the scheme down.
None of the councillors who spoke about the application – they visited the site last week – could find any reason to disagree with the recommendation to refuse.
“I think the officers have got this right,” commented Councillor Bill White (Galashiels & District, Ind).
“It would have a real visual impact for anyone coming down the A7 and moving from high to lower ground.”
Councillor Nicholas Watson (Leaderdale & Melrose, BP), said that while nearly all of the visual impact was when looking north from Midlothian Council territory into the Borders, the region’s planning authority – of which he is vice-chairman – had to have regard to its neighbours.
And it was also the potential impact on the medieval archaeological site of Soutra Aisle which raised considerable fears for several councillors.
“Soutra Aisle is a spectacular view and it makes this proposal one of considerable concern and one I therefore consider to be not an acceptable development,” commented Councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East, SNP).