SCOTLAND’S environmental watchdog has warned of the significant adverse effects on the Esk and Ewes valleys from a proposed windfarm.
Community Windpower Ltd has applied to the Scottish government to build 45 turbines, 40 of which would be 200m high and five 179.5m high, stretching from Ewes to Teviothead and across to Westerkirk.
The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) report said the proposal would result in significant
adverse landscape effects on a number of landscape character types (LCTs), including, most significantly, on the highly sensitive Southern Uplands – North Langholm unit and on parts of the narrow wooded valley and upland glen covering the upper Esk and Ewes Water valleys.
It would also incur these effects on some of the special qualities of the Langholm Hills Regional Scenic Area and on views from the A7 and the B709 where very large turbines would form a dominant feature affecting the appreciation of the rugged and open backdrop of hills seen in views from the two valleys.
Views from nearby hills, for example, at the popular monument and viewpoint on Whita Hill would also be significantly affected.
Lighting of all turbines would extend these effects into dusk and night-time because of the low light levels in the area.
Its report said: “This windfarm is poorly sited and designed. Locating very large turbines on the pronounced scenic ‘edge’ hills lying closer to smaller-scale settled valleys rather than confining them to less visually-sensitive and the more modified interior forested upland plateau of Eskdalemuir would result in adverse effects on landscape character and views.
There are also too many turbines, resulting in a very congested layout in ‘end-on’ views from the north.
SNH referred to the North Langholm unit of the Rugged Southern Uplands identified in the Dumfries and Galloway landscape wind capacity study.
The study defined the dramatic landform of high and open shapely peaks, the backdrop they provided to settled valleys and their perceived naturalness and scenic quality, as recognised by their Regional Scenic Area designation, as key constraints to wind energy development.
The study concluded there was no scope for turbines more than 50m high to be accommodated in this landscape without incurring significant impacts on a number of key characteristics.
The landscape visual impact assessment judged the North Langholm unit to be of medium-high susceptibility to the proposed development but SNH considered that its susceptibility and sensitivity should have been judged to be high.
These very large turbines would be sited on top of eye-catching ridgelines and pronounced peaks increasing their visual impact and incongruity.
The assessment concluded that significant effects would be associated with night-time lighting from three representative viewpoints, principally because of the dark baseline context of the area and SNH agreed with this assessment.
The report concluded: “The landscape visual impact assessment is thorough and the findings are generally well-justified, although, in some instances, it is considered that landscape susceptibility is under-estimated and some of the factors listed as mitigating the magnitude of change are tenuous.”