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Minchmoor wind farm – appeals process

03/12/2010

Like them or loath them, wind turbines generally cause controversy and the planning and approval stage can take years to resolve.

In writing this blog the objective is not to present a view on what should be the best outcome, rather it is to inform interested parties of the lengthy procedures relating to this and many other wind farm applications and to encourage individuals to express their opinions on how they would react to further developments of this form of renewable energy.

First it is worth identifying this particular proposed development. The application is for 12 wind turbines on a section of high ground between Traquair and Clovenfords in the Scottish Borders area. These turbines if built would be very close to a very popular walking and multipurpose track which also forms a part of the Southern Upland Way and Sir Walter Scott Way. This application was first lodged in 2003 and it has taken to August 2010 for the Planning Authority to reach a final decision on this application, which was not to approve the application on a number of stated grounds. One that is very relevant to the walking fraternity was that “the proposal will cause significant and unacceptable visual cumulative impacts when considered with schemes approved or proposed, including coincident and sequential impacts from road and path in this area, especially the Southern Upland Way“. It is interesting that they make comment on the cumulative impact for almost immediately east on the same track is a further application for additional wind turbines under the Broadmeadows application. Add to that a scooping site at North Common it means that this popular days walking route could become heavily dominated by continuous turbines.

Since the Planning Authority refusal the developer has, not unexpectedly, raised an objection to the decision and this is now about to be considered by the appointed Reporter from the Directorate for Planning  & Environmental Appeals. It is likely that there will then follow a public inquiry where the varying parties will present their positions with the support of opposing QC’s.

The problems that we see in this process are numerous and in particular they seem to be tipped against the objectors to the application. Developers of such wind farms have very deep pockets and dedicated employees to carry the application through to the end point. In a case such as this where the application has been turned down by the Council, it can be argued that they (the Planning Authority) also have the money and staff, but is it public money well spent on then having to have their decision challenged. However behind the Council’s decision there have been countless other individuals and bodies making representation to the Planning process and this has cost them in many cases significant amounts of money and lots of time, in most cases voluntary input from community groups and individual objectors. What is important but difficult to sustain is this input and effort over extended period of time and often the money and stamina of these community groups may run out.

In this particular application the objecting lobby worked hard and were finally delighted in August with the Planning Authorities decision and perhaps they thought the work was done. What is now the new problem is the fact that through the right of appeal the challenge still needs to go on and to remain silent and by not continuing to put that point of view forward the victory may pass to the developer who will certainly be still applying their resources to the process.

Another concern to fairness is the fact that an applicant who has had the planning application refused can appeal to the Scottish Ministers (in Scotland) however if the application had been accepted the objectors to a planning application have no redress or right of appeal. Are the scales tipped towards the big developer and those with money, or is this a democratic and fair system? That is to a great extent the question.

Walking Support has in a previous Appeals process been asked to speak on behalf of the Authority who had turned down an application. We spoke with the knowledge of walkers who had taken the time to respond to a questionnaire that still is live on our website. It lets individuals state their thoughts on the impact of wind turbines as they interface with walking routes. We have consolidated the results and given this data to the appeals process. We can say that the responses are not polarised to any one point of view, many dislike the wind turbines but there are also those who are very supportive and find no difficulty with them being close to their walking route. Indeed the impact is much to do with how close they are positioned to the walk and how many there are along the walking route. It is often to do with positioning and the cumulative impact. We would still encourage individuals to respond to this in one of several ways.

  1. Reply to this blog with your impressions and thoughts
  2. Take a few minutes and link to our survey, then you views will be consolidated with all others to give a much more robust survey result that may be of some help in this appeal or future development applications.
  3. Visit the Walkerburn community website for more information on this specific wind farm

Indeed you do not need to just action one, why not, if you have a point of view, explore all of the links.

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