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30/10/2020

Wind farms blown away

Words: Roger Milne

Two major onshore wind farms ran into turbulence this week with infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon, who confirmed that she has refused planning permission for what would have been the Province’s largest array – a 33-turbine project earmarked for a site wholly within the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which held a public inquiry into the proposal, had recommended it should be rejected.

Mallon said her refusal of the Sperrins project, known as the Doraville wind farm, was finely balanced.

She insisted: “I am a huge advocate for renewable energy that will create sustainable infrastructure for future generations. Green infrastructure represents a real opportunity for tackling the climate emergency and helping boost the economy, but this should never be at the cost of the surrounding environment.

“In this case 33 wind turbines would cause considerable harm to the landscape interest of a large part of the AONB and its unique archaeological, cultural and tourism assets. The economic and environmental benefits of the proposal would not outweigh the harm to these important interests.

“The PAC report indicates that the scale of the proposal and the sheer magnitude of the associated change has the potential to detract from local people’s sense of place and connection to the land. 

“My aim is to improve people’s lives, not add to their burden so taking all of this into account, and in line with the PAC recommendation, I have decided to refuse this application.”

The regionally significant planning application was submitted to the department for determination in June 2015. It attracted 2,160 representations – all but seven were objections.

Meanwhile, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has sidestepped making a decision on an eight-turbine wind farm proposed for a site at Gruggandoo in the Mourne Mountains. 

Officials had recommended refusal of the revised scheme proposed for a location in the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Instead, councillors agreed on a motion requesting the minister to hold a public inquiry into the scheme.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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