Scots Rejoice: Borders Community Defeats Wind Developer After Five Year Battle

Philip Kerr: mission accomplished.


The Scots are as tenacious as they are canny – a band of them has just defeated big wind after a five-year battle. Needless to say, the locals are ecstatic.

Birneyknowe wind farm rejection is welcomed by locals
Southern Reporter
Kathryn Wylie
31 December 2018

The rejection of plans for a 15-turbine wind farm near Hawick has been hailed a victory for the communities which fought against the development for almost five years.

Banks Renewables appealed to the Scottish Government after Scottish Borders Council threw out plans for the Birneyknowes wind farm development near Bonchester Bridge.

The County Durham-based firm’s South Lanarkshire operation had hoped to build the 132m-high turbines on land north, south, east and west of Birneyknowe Cottage, two and a half miles south east of Hawick and a mile west of Bonchester Bridge.

The idea garnered widespread opposition from locals, and in March 2017 councillors unanimously agreed to object to the development due to its landscape, visual and cultural impact, saying it would have “major significant impacts on the historic environment” including Rubers Law, a hill south of Denholm.

The size of the project meant a final decision lay with the Scottish government and a two-day public inquiry was held at Minto Golf Club one year on, last March.

The reporter assigned to the inquiry, David Liddle, has now concluded the benefits of the scheme’s contribution to renewable energy targets did not outweigh concerns about its visual and landscape impact.

A notice issued by Scottish ministers said: “The reporter had significant concerns about the nature, degree and extent of the adverse landscape and visual effects which would arise in this instance.”

That is a decision welcomed by Philip Kerr, chairman of Southdean Community Council and Chesters Wind Farm Action Group, who commended the report’s outcome and detail.

“The local community councils were pleased to see the decision from the Scottish Government, and the report accompanying the decision was particularly detailed,” he said.

“It was very clear to see the major concerns with the scheme, landscape and visual impact and residential amenity tied in closely with the major thrust of local community objections and those from Scottish Borders Council.

“By giving such detail it makes it easier for local communities to understand the decision making process, which they have been involved with from start. “

“Local communities had felt that from the schemes introduction that Birneyknowe along with Cummings Hill and Highlee Hill were particularly inappropriately located for the local area, and were amongst the earliest larger scale applications.

“The latter two were withdrawn and Birneyknowe has now been rejected. There are clearly a still variety of schemes at various stages of consideration, but Birneyknowe was a particularly ill-judged scheme and its refusal is a key decision which is to be welcomed.”

Looking forward…to a three day week, Billy Stott (left) has worked at the auction mart for 45 years while Andrew Dickman has been there for 15 years.

Billy Stott, one of the most respected auctioneers in Scotland, looks back on his career Hawick councillor Watson McAteer added: “It is hugely satisfying that the Scottish Government has finally listened to the residents of Bonchester Bridge and local area who fought long and hard to prevent the Birneyknowe wind farm.

“The reporters recommendation was made following a very active local campaign where the impact on the fantastic natural landscape and wildlife were key to refusal.

“I can only hope that this decision is replicated when further applications are being made in our community where the natural beauty of our Borderlands are being sacrificed for commercial profit.”

The site was chosen as it did not lie in any special protected area for landscaping, nature conservation or any archaeological or historical designations.

And while more than 100 letters of support were received initially, Southdean, Hawick, Hobkirk and Denholm community councils all opposed the development.

Hawick and Denholm councillor, Neil Richards, said: “I would like to say that the efforts of the various community councils involved were outstanding.

“The planning committee will obviously be vindicated because to take on developers as planners can be a costly exercise.

“Taking on developers is not exactly an even playing field either. It seems to be easier for them rather than the council or individuals taking on windfarm firms.

“The councillors in Hawick and Denholm have been fully behind the efforts of the community councils that have been up against it as its on their lands as such.

“I’m very pleased, I just hope we can win a few more now.

“Someone said to be that if Birneyknowe had been passed there would have been no application that couldn’t be passed. It was so inappropriate.”
Southern Reporter

8 thoughts on “Scots Rejoice: Borders Community Defeats Wind Developer After Five Year Battle

  1. Congratulations ! ! ! Here in The County (Ontario, Canada) we have been fighting for over 15 years, It is like a bad cancer. We won some years ago. Then they came back just ‘nextdoor’. and in the middle of that fight, they managed to put up 4 industrial size wind turbines within a week. Then we won – and now we are waiting for those turbines to be taken down. We have been waiting for over half a year. Hoping and praying that this will be the end of it ! ! !

  2. Ah, but for some very strange reason, the truth has to be suppressed at all costs. A piece of honesty such as a ‘Cost Benefit Analysis presented to the GOVERNING ELITE, must be rendered ‘immaterial to the planning process’, otherwise rent-seeking parasitical developers would never get their fraudulent schemes off the ground.

  3. I am pleased at this result; but suspect it was for the wrong reasons; namely on the basis of the adverse effects on the visual environment.
    In fact these wind farms should be rejected on the basis that wind generation itself results in a negative value on a correct cost benefit analysis. There is much evidence for this; and the calculations should include the costs of the required backup facilities to render Wind generation reliable.
    Practical evidence is available merely by looking at energy costs for those areas where wind power has been the most developed.
    Local communities should advance this negative cost benefit issue as a major plank in opposition to intended wind farm development.

    1. The problem is visual amenities and landscape are the only two arguments that are ‘allowed’ on the planning process. Heritage and ancient monuments come under landscape. Cost benefit is considered a matter of opinion not a planning fact (sadly). On that point it’s a matter of politics not planning.

      1. Here in South Australia our previous Labor government took Visual Amenity away as a reason to reject such projects after the Acciona Allendale East proposal was rejected in the ERD court, with the action being brought by the Paltridges, local dairy farmers, on behalf of themselves and to the relief of the local community who had opposed it from the start, with the Local Authority supporting it right to the end.
        Our now Liberal Government has not changed the rules governing where such projects can be installed or Planning Regulations and so the fight goes on and on with Local communities having to fund and fight the battles because other changes the Labor government made to the Planning Approval Process has left Local Authorities with no or little choice but to support projects.
        Like projects in Scotland its the Government that has the last say and the people affected have their hands tide and their pockets plundered as they try to fight off the money hungry developers.
        It seems I have long misunderstood what Governments were meant to do – represent all the people and their wishes!!!!! Well maybe they do as long as they live in the cities and have no understanding or even desire to know of consequences to rural and regional communities.

    2. Sadly landscape and visual amenity are really the only accepted options open to objectors in planning law. Heritage and monuments tend to come under landscape. Cost benefits are are Treated as a matter of opinion and come under politics not planning.

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