Controversial plans for a 15-turbine wind farm near Hawick face being given the thumbs-down by Scottish Borders Council over fears it could blight an area of natural beauty.
County Durham-based Banks Renewables’ South Lanarkshire operation has submitted an application for the 132m-high turbines on land north, south, east and west of Birneyknowe Cottage, two and a half miles south east of Hawick and one mile west of Bonchester Bridge.
Members of the council’s planning and building standards committee will be recommended today, March 6, to tell the Scottish Government it opposes the application, however.
A report to councillors concludes that the application would lead to Hawick’s setting becoming “wind farm-dominated”, particularly on the approach from the north.
In it, lead planning officer Julie Hayward adds: “While the wind farm design has helpfully sought to mitigate direct impacts, the introduction of a wind farm in this highly historic landscape will significantly affect the ability to experience, appreciate and understand the setting of several designated monuments that add to the sense of deep time and place in the area.
“Most important and significantly impacted is the setting of the ancient citadel on the summit of Rubers Law, though there are other major significant impacts within 10km of the development.
“The wind farm, due to its extent and turbine height would be prominent in the landscape when viewed from the top of Bonchester Bridge looking west.
“There would be clear, open views, and the turbines would break the skyline and draw the eye away from Rubers Law, currently the most distinctive feature in the landscape when viewed from the summit looking north and west.
“While some limited mitigation is possible, this will not overcome the major significant impacts of the scheme on the historic environment.
“The council continues to support wind energy proposals in appropriate locations, but this proposal raises considerable policy issues in terms of its prominence within the landscape and from iconic viewpoints and scheduled monuments.”
The report also outlines objections to the scheme from five community councils, those representing Hawick, Upper Teviotdale and Borthwick Water, Denholm, Southdean and Hobkirk.
Philip Kerr, chairman of Southdean Community Council, is a long-term opponent of the proposed Birneyknowe wind farm, describing it as a “ghastly application that should have no hope of approval”, adding: “Under new guidelines issued by Scottish Borders Council, Birneyknowe is wildly unsuitable.
“If agreed, it would be open season for all applications.”
Mr Kerr plans to attend today’s planning meeting, and he has been heartened by the council report.
He said: “I have seen the thorough planning officer’s report, which raises many of the issues that we had as a community council notably on the unsuitable location.
“We now await the planning committee’s deliberation.”
Colin Anderson, development director for Banks Renewables, said the firm had been encouraged by its consultation with the local community.
He said the wind farm would “enhance the local economy, increase the prospects of a significant number of local people and business and support our country’s progress towards a low-carbon future with very low-cost clean energy”.
The planning and building standards committee meets at the council’s Newtown headquarters at 10am today.