Scot-Govt approves new Borders wind farm in River Tweed conservation area – after slashing number of turbines in half

Fruid Reservoir, Tweedsmuir, Borders near the site of the Whitelaw Brae wind farm
Fruid Reservoir at Tweedsmuir in the Borders is near the site of the Whitelaw Brae wind farm

A planning application to build a new 50-MW wind farm near Moffat in the Scottish Borders has been approved by the Scot-Govt – despite the opposition of the local council.

But only after the Greenock-based developer of the Whitelaw Brae wind farm agreed to cut the number of turbines by almost 50% – from the 27 it first proposed in 2012 – to the 14 it submitted in an amended bid in 2015.

Mountaineering Scotland had also criticised the approval of 14 turbines – each more than 400-ft high – near the Fruid Reservoir in the Tweedsmuir hills claiming it ignores the impact on tourism in the area.

The application for the Whitelaw Brae wind farm was subject to a public local inquiry which considered all potential impacts including tourism.

A Scot-Govt spokesman said that that as long as the conditions attached to the development were observed there would be “no adverse impact” on the River Tweed special conservation area.

The British Govt. Minister for Scotland David Mundell, – who is MP for Tweeddale – said: “I am very angry that the Whitelaw Brae wind farm has been given the green light by the Scottish Government.

“Local people and the local authority were united in their opposition to this major development, but, once again, the Scottish Government has chosen to ignore the views of people living there, with their we-know-best attitude.

“My position on wind farm developments is clear in my constituency – enough is enough.

“This is another development that will harm the tourist industry, which is vital for the local economy, and local people will be wondering if wind farm developments will ever end in this area.

 “All too often, the Scottish Government are overturning local planning decisions, which is deeply damaging for local democracy.”

David Gibson, chief executive of the not-for-profit charity, Mountaineering Scotland, said: “We’re disappointed, but not surprised, that our own research into tourism impacts has been ignored consistently by developers and those who run the planning system in Scotland.

“But even the research promoted by the renewables industry itself now demonstrates that wind farms negatively impact tourism employment in mountain areas.”

He said there was “empirical evidence” that tourism-related employment decreased in scenic areas after wind farms were built.

“Positive media coverage of a ‘thriving’ tourism sector, typically based on statistically selective press releases, is seldom supported by the full figures,” he said.

“In a competitive world, it is disingenuous to put at risk any segment of Scotland’s tourism market such as that dependent upon wild and open landscapes.”

12 Dec 2017

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