Wind farm bid suffers blow

PLANS for a huge new wind farm in West Lothian are set to face massive opposition over fears the development will wreck views of the Pentland Hills.

An application to build the 23-turbine wind farm, in Fauch Hill, West Calder, has been made to the Scottish Government.

But a series of opponents to the plan, including local authorities, MSPs and environmental groups, have emerged in an attempt to block the development.

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West Lothian Council, which is the planning authority for the area, is expected to formally register its disapproval of the wind farm plan after a meeting of its executive today, on the grounds that it will have “unacceptable impacts” on the landscape and visual amenity of the Pentlands.

If the recommendation to oppose the plan is approved by the council executive, the Scottish Government will have to hold a public inquiry prior to determining the application.

Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said: “I would be opposed to anything that adversely affects the beauty and natural sweep of the Pentlands. I am in favour of different ways of producing energy, but I am sceptical about the windmills.”

Edinburgh City Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Pentland Hills Regional Park Authority are among the bodies which have already registered their objection.

South Lanarkshire Council, The Scottish Rights of Way Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are also against the development.

It is planned that 22 of the turbines would be 125 metres tall, while one would be 115 metres in height, with a 90-metre blade diameter.

The wind farm, which would have a 25-year lifespan, would produce enough electricity to power 42,000 households.

Last week, an independent survey showed more than 60 per cent of residents in the Kirknewton area backed the plan.

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The company behind the proposals, Fauch Hill Sustainable Energy (FHSE), has offered “benefit packages” to local communities, including funding for development trusts, the planting of 100,000 new trees, a new visitor centre and a “community turbine”, which will directly benefit Kirknewton, West Calder and Harburn.

Debbie Chawner, director of FHSE, said just four per cent of visitors to the Pentlands used the proposed wind farm site.

She added: “We hope that the council will share our ambition and our vision.”