THE new body set up at Newtown to review planning decisions at the behest of disgruntled and rejected applicants faces an early and significant test.

For it was confirmed this week that Swedish renewable energy company Vattenfall has lodged an appeal in support of its proposal for five giant turbines in a stunningly beautiful part of the region so far untouched by wind farms.

Although the firm’s favoured site is at Whitton, five miles east of Jedburgh, Scottish Borders Council officials have already warned that, if approved, the application could have region-wide implications by opening the floodgates for similar installations and would “reduce the extent of landscapes that are wind farm free”.

That was cited as one reason for refusal by SBC planning officer Julie Haward in July when she and fellow officials rejected the Vattenfall bid.

At the same time, the 583 individuals and groups who objected to the scheme, claiming it would ruin views from the landmark border crossing at Carter Bar and adversely affect the Roman road at Dere Street, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The dissenters had also alleged the Whitton development would mar views from a range of key scenic locations, including the Eildons, Peniel Heugh, Ruberslaw, the Black Hill at Earlston and the Cheviots.

The application had been delegated to Mrs Hayward and her non-elected colleagues for a decision, rather than going before the council’s planning committee, because of its relatively small scale.

But Vattenfall appears unswerving in its determination to build its wind farm and has now lodged an appeal for a local review of the July rejection.

Despite the welter of objections to its plans, the firm is claiming its venture has community support and is holding up the carrot of £1.875million which, it says, will be paid into a community fund over the 25-year lifespan of the 110 metre-high turbines.

Since the July meeting, the council has agreed that the local review board (LRB), which will hear the Vattenfall appeal, will have its membership increased from five to nine councillors. The same councillors will serve on the planning committee which, in turn, has had its membership cut from 13 to nine.

As reported last week, the council hopes the new system, which will come into operation on November 1, will reduce legal challenges to local planning decisions.