Plans for a large-scale wind farm on a prominent site near Chesters, in the rural parish of Southdean eight miles south-east of Hawick, were formally submitted this week to Scottish Borders Council.
Global firm Renewable Energy Systems’ Glasgow office is seeking detailed consent for 13 turbines, 11 of them 175m high, on land at Highlee Hill owned by the Church Commissioners for England.
A meeting to gauge the response of the local community to the proposal has been provisionally called for next Wednesday, July 13, at 7pm at Southdean Hall by the Chesters Wind Farm Action Group.
It might be postponed until Wednesday, July 20, if the application has not been validated by council officers by then, however.
Once the application is validated and advertised by the council, the public will have four weeks to offer comments during a statutory consultation period.
“A wind farm at Highlee Hill could provide significant benefits to the local economy,” said Ruth Elder, a development manager with RES.
“We estimate it will bring £3.6m of inward investment to the area in the form of jobs, employment and the use of local services, alongside around £575,000 annually in business rates.
“The project has the potential to provide sufficient renewable energy to meet the average demand of more than 30,000 homes, and we’ve already undertaken a range of engagement activities to design a project which, we believe, reflects the best balance of economic, social and environmental considerations.
“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 fewer turbines.”
However, Philip Kerr, chairman of the action group, formed in 2011, claims there is little to suggest RES has taken on board points of concern raised during the pre-application stage of the Highlee Hill development.
“The company put on a public exhibition which was attended by over 120 local people, and the initial response was highly critical,” said Mr Kerr.
“Of the seven wind farm developments proposed for southern Roxburghshire, this has always threatened to be the one which would raise the bar of appropriateness to a new level, given the size of the turbines proposed.
“The outlook at Chesters would be changed in perpetuity by something totally out of scale with the receiving landscape, and there are also major concerns regarding residential amenity.
“In addition, given the deeply unsettled political environment at present, any predicted socio-economic benefits should be treated with significant scepticism.”
The current application, for two 150m-tall turbines and 11 others 175m tall, is just over a third of the size of the 37-turbine wind farm originally proposed by RES, though none of its turbines’ tip heights exceeded 150m.
For further details of the application, go to www.highleehill-windfarm.co.uk or www.wind-watch.org