MINISTERS have given the green light for plans to build a controversial new wind farm in Upper Nithsdale after a public inquiry was held into the proposals.

The Scottish Government granted consent this week to Community Windpower Ltd (CWL) for the Sanquhar II wind farm on the border of Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire, some 6.5km south-west of Sanquhar itself - despite a government reporter finding that ther ewould be "significant localised landscape and visual impacts".

The proposals sparked objections from local residents, community councils and Dumfries and Galloway Council - as well as the formation of a 'Stop Sanquhar II' campaign group.

The company’s existing Sanquhar community wind farm – comprising nine turbines – was commissioned in 2018 and is capable of generating 32.4MW (megawatts) of electricity.

By contrast, the new, much larger, development will have a generating capacity of 300MW.

The new development was originally submitted in March 2019 as a 50-turbine scheme, but in its consented form will have 44 turbines – 42 with a maximum height of 200 metres to the tip of the blade, and two with a maximum of 149 metres.

The decision comes after a public inquiry into the scheme in October 2021, and a further hearing in January of this year.

CWL says the scheme will produce enough electricity to power 335,000 homes and offset more than 546,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The company has also committed to making a 'community benefit' payment from the new development of £5,000 per megawatt per annum.

Rod Wood, CWL’s managing director, said: “We are thrilled that Sanquhar II has been consented. This scheme will provide over 300 MW of clean, green electricity, which is a significant step forward in Scotland’s ambitious journey to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.

“Sanquhar II will now play a huge part in achieving Scotland’s legally binding climate targets.

“Its benefits are not just environmental, either. Construction, development, and operation of Sanquhar II could generate over £350 million gross value added (GVA) for Scotland, supporting over 1,600 job years.

“The project will also provide over £100 million in business rates to Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire Councils, and overall the project represents a substantial investment in the Scottish economy.”

In a post on the Stop Sanquhar II Windfarm group on Facebook, spokesperson Sue Hall said: "Sanquhar II windfarm has been consented by the Scottish Government. This is despite objections from our communities, community councils, and D&GC.

"A huge thank you to everyone who supported our cause, we could not have got so far without you all.

"And to add insult to injury, today windfarms are providing just 8 per cent of our electricity. No wind = no power."

In addition to the existing Sanquhar wind farm, CWL also operates three adjacent wind farms in North Ayrshire – at Dalry, Millour Hill and Millour Hill Extension – as well as developments in East Lothian and South Lanarkshire.

As well as the Sanquhar and Sanquhar II developments, the border area of East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway is already home to the South Kyle wind farm’s 50 turbines, while work is also under way on a 49-turbine development at nearby North Kyle.

Plans are also under consideration for a 12-turbine development near Patna, and an eight-turbine development at Rowancraig, west of Sanquhar.

Earlier this year proposals were unveiled to extend another existing wind farm in the area, at Enoch Hill, south-west of New Cumnock, where 15 turbines are already in place.

Permission was granted in 2020 for a development of 22 turbines at Lethans, also near New Cumnock.

That wind farm has yet to be built, but in April this year, East Ayrshire Council recommended for approval an application by Bank Renewables to extend it by an additional 10 turbines.