A HEARING has been held by Scottish Government officials to discuss the proposed new wind farm at Barrel Law, near Hawick. 

In September, plans for an £8m wind farm were rejected by Scottish Borders councillors.

The proposal would have seen seven turbines, of up to 132m in height, erected on land to the north-west of Roberton, near Hawick.

The company behind the plans, Germany-based ABO Wind, then submitted an appeal to the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division (DPEA). 

As part of that appeal process, the DPEA’s appointed reporter Elspeth Cook held a hearing at Forman Hall, Roberton.

However, the hearing was simply to clarify and define legal terms and certain technical standards in order to help inform Ms Cook’s decision. 

For example, one point of contention between Scottish Borders Council and ABO Wind is whether or not the combined appearance of Barrel Law and the existing wind turbines at Langhope Rig will create a ‘landscape with wind turbines’ or a ‘wind turbine landscape’, as per the legally-defined definitions. 

The council’s position is that a distance of between 5-10km is required in order to maintain the current landscape type in the valley, but ABO Wind suggest the turbines should be less than 2km apart, as they state that spreading out the two turbine sites would actually make the landscape look more saturated as the wind turbines would effectively cover a larger area. 

Furthermore, they state that a greater distance between the two developments would push the Barrel Law turbines outside of the topography which makes wind farms viable in this area.

Appearing as part of ABO Wind’s panel of representatives, land and development consultant James Welsh told the reporter: “In our opinion we preserve the distinct identity of the two groups. 

“There are examples of wind farms being approved with similar distances between them but still being accepted as being clearly separate wind farms. 

“To insist on a greater separation would increase the effect of a cumulative effect between them.”

Scottish Borders Council’s planning consultant, Dr Guy Wimble, said: “I don’t dispute that they are identifiable as separate elements, my issue is the effect of the wind farms on the landscape, and recognising that they are two different wind farms not one development.

“The proximity of them makes this appear more of a wind farm landscape rather a landscape with wind farms.

“While I accept that separating the developments would make the wind farms seem more spaced out, by putting them closer you’d increase density.”

John Campbel QC, appearing on behalf of a group of objectors called Barrel Law Action Group, said: “If you pull the wind farms apart then clearly you increase the area of cumulative effect. 

“If you pull them together, you’re going to increase the cumulative effect just by sheer numbers, and you lose the ability to discern the two as distinct entities.”

Melrose and Leaderdale councillor Tom Miers, appearing in his capacity as Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for planning and environment, told the hearing: “It seems to me that the guidance allows for developments in this area but doesn’t necessarily promote it. 

“No one is disputing that the two wind farms would be separate, we’re working to find out what degree of separation would be appropriate.”

Mr Welsh responded: “If you increase to a 5km distance it will push all 120m turbines outwith the area that has been identified as having the appropriate topography for this type of development.” 

Ms Cook also sought clarification on certain technical points, mostly surrounding tables and figures contained within various reports submitted by the appellant and the local authority.