Council seek wind of change

MOYLE councillors have hit out at planners for being of the opinion to refuse permission for wind turbines which could help reduce energy bills on farms during the current economic downturn, writes Nevin Farrell.

Council Chairperson, Cllr Price McConaghy (Independent), said one farm had an electricity bill of 5,000 per quarter and the farmer was seeking wind generated power to reduce the outlay.

Three cases of people seeking wind turbines to generate power have come before planners in recent weeks and planners were of the opinion to refuse all three.

In one case, Daniel Kane wanted to erect a 250Kw wind turbine with a tower height of 40 metres to service an existing dairy farm 390 metres west of 31 Drumnagee Road, Bushmills.

Planners are of the opinion to refuse it saying it has failed to be demonstrated that there would not be a detrimental impact on adjacent properties by reason of noise impact.

And planners say the development would, if permitted, adversely impact on the 'integrity' of the Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site setting.

Cllr McConaghy said individuals are always being encouraged to use renewable electricity but yet the Drumnagee Road farm scheme faced being turned down.

"This is very wrong," he said.

Cllr Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist) said: "At this time with oil prices being what they are people should be able to look for cheaper electricity. Planners should be more sympathetic."

He said the Drumnagee scheme will be well screened and would not be visible from nearby areas.

Cllr McConaghy said wind turbines by their nature cannot be placed in hollows out of the way.

Cllr Catherine McCambridge (SDLP) said refusal of such wind turbines was "disgraceful".

Regarding the alleged impact on the setting of the Giant's Causeway, DUP councillor David McAllister said he flagged that subject up before but he did not get support from Moyle Council to complain about it.

He said protecting the integrity of the Causeway stretches from Ballintoy to Portstewart but when he raised the matter at the start "this Council sat on its hands".

A planning officer told the meeting of Moyle Council the World Heritage Site has a protection zone round it and within that the policy assists Planning Service in paying particular scrutiny to any development and it involves not just the area close to the Causeway but the area through which people travel to reach the Causeway.

DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said he was concerned that people are not being encouraged to use renewable energy and he said half a mile away a local school had a turbine which is going very well.

Independent representative Seamus Blaney said there were turbines up in the mountains in many areas like Loughgiel but yet small turbines could not be secured for local people.

Another wind turbine plan which faces refusal because of the impact on the Giant's Causeway was a proposal for a wind turbine with a 30 metre hub height on a site at Red Road, 810 metres from the junction of Moycraig Road, Dunseverick. The applicant is Mahanaco.

Planners also said if permitted it would damage the nature conservation value of a wet grassland habitat of purple moorgrass and rush pasture as well as having a visual impact on the landscape.

A third wind turbine case facing refusal is a proposal for a 22.5 metre structure approximately 200 metres north east of 54a Glenshesk Road, Ballycastle. The applicant is Mr James Duncan.

Planners said it had not been demonstrated there would not be a noise impact on adjacent properties and say the structure will not visually integrate into the surrounding countryside.

Planners further stated it had not been demonstrated that there would be no potential impact on bats and said a demonstration had to be given that satisfactory access arrangements can be provided.

Independent councillor Padraig McShane called for an office meeting in this case.

Planners agreed to defer consideration of the three wind turbines to give an opportunity for further information to be brought forward.