Development of wind turbine energy as an alternative source of renewable energy in Northern Ireland is being delayed by the Planning Service, where some proposals have been in the pipeline for two years, according to SDLP MLA Tommy Gallagher.
Mr Gallagher is concerned that if planning application processing times are not addressed some companies may decide to take wind farm and turbine developments elsewhere.
The SDLP environment spokesman discovered that Planning Service decisions on 18 applications are awaited more than 24 months after submission, and 16 have been waiting for approval for more than a year. He added that £10,000 in application fees had been paid for proposals.
He said: “It is unacceptable applications of this nature are held up in the planning process for so long. With the price of oil rising and with concerns around climate change it is important to develop alternative energy sources.
“We have better potential than most for energy from wind and waves. We can develop this and protect our scenery and natural beauty.
“If the planning system doesn’t radically change its approach to these applications we are unlikely to realise that potential or to meet our 2012 targets for producing 12 per cent of our energy from renewable sources.”
According to Planning Service website data, there are currently 50 proposed wind farm applications under consideration: 10 are in Omagh district, nine are in Fermanagh, nine in Strabane, four are in Dungannon, five in Limavady, three in Londonderry, two are in Newtownabbey, two are in Coleraine, two in Ballymena, two in Ballymoney, Antrim has one and Cookstown has one proposal.
This is in addition to the 29 existing wind farms in Northern Ireland
Environment Minister Arlene Foster said that the Planning Service was well aware of the importance of the applications and has a specialist unit to deal with them.
“It is vital these applications are fully considered as they are generally located in environmentally sensitive areas such as places of outstanding beauty,” she said.
Ms Foster said it is necessary complex environmental information is supplied to support applications and the Planning Service must wait until it is supplied.
9 May 2008
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