A CONTROVERSIAL wind farm campaigners claim will devastate an area of outstanding natural beauty has been given the green light by Scottish ministers.
Plans for Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills sparked a seven-year fight by local residents, who believe the development, on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe, will damage the character of the area.
The 48-turbine project, which the developers say will power 66,000 homes, has been through two public inquiries and faced opposition from high-profile campaigners such as the television botanist Professor David Bellamy.
But yesterday, energy minister Jim Mather announced the wind farm would go ahead, creating 600 construction jobs and providing 240,000 a year to the local community for environmental improvements and sustainable development projects, through the Tweed Forum.
"It's encouraging to see constructive dialogue from all parties concerned and I am confident that Fallago Rig will be a centrepiece of Scotland's renewables legacy," Mr Mather said.
"I am delighted the result has seen co-operation with all concerned, and I look forward to seeing it become a reality."
The minister said he had put in place a series of conditions to protect the outstanding natural habitats and landscapes and to minimise disturbance to communities.
But Mark Rowley, spokesman for the Say No to Fallago action group, said: "Not only will this wind farm blight the untouched core of a designated Area of Great Landscape Value, but its construction goes against the wishes of the local community, whatever the developers and Scottish Government say. We are not giving up this fight because it sets a precedent for landscapes all over the country.
"World-class landscapes are the sacrificial lambs in the Scottish Government's attempts to meet self-imposed renewables targets."
Scottish Natural Heritage, which objected to the plan, said it supported renewable energy, but felt the location of Fallago Rig, along with other wind farms planned for the area, such as Dun Law and Crystal Rig, would result in a "continuous line" of wind farms from East Lothian.
The Duke of Roxburghe, who earlier this year spoke of his "frustrations" over the delays to the development on his 60,000-hectare site, is set to earn about 2.5 million a year from the project.
The original public inquiry was held in 2008, but it was reopened more than a year later after campaigners claimed ministers would be making a decision based on out-of-date evidence. It was the first time a public inquiry had been reopened into any type of energy application.
Roxburgh & Berwickshire MSP John Lamont said: "This process has highlighted significant problems in the way wind-farm developments are handled."The Scottish Government needs a national strategy so that suitable sites for wind farms are identified in advance rather than having the current situation with speculative applications for inappropriate sites."
Reputedly worth some 80 million, Sir Guy Innes Ker inherited the Floors Castle estate aged 19, when his father died. Since then, the tenth Duke of Roxburghe has run the 60,000-acre estate which includes a hotel, championship golf course and 55 farms.
He won't spell out what he will earn from the wind farm, saying it is a commercial agreement between himself and developer North British Windpower.
A spokesman for the duke, who last year was revealed to be suffering from throat cancer, said money made from the project would go back into the estate - and the local economy.
A year ago, Scottish Borders Council wrote to him after residents spotted what they believed was work being done to build bridge foundations next to the River Dye - before planning permission for the wind farm had been granted.