Strabane District Council is to corporately oppose controversial plans for one of the largest wind farms ever proposed in the north.
The proposal, which is still at pre-application stage was brought to council’s Environment Committee for consideration and comment on Tuesday of last week.
In what is one of the largest ever proposals to come before Planning Service, the plan sees 60 wind turbines on 6,000 acres of land belonging to the Blakiston-Houston Estate between Cranagh, Goles and Broughderg.
Glenelly Sinn Fein councillor, Dan Kelly, said if given the go-ahead the plan would be “devastating” to the scenic Sperrins landscape and would be a “killer blow” to efforts by council to promote the tourism and recreational image of the area.
At the meeting he encouraged all councillors to reject the application and in doing so, send a clear message to the Planning Service. His comments were met with the unanimous approval of his council colleagues.
It is understood both Omagh District Council and its counterparts in Cookstown have also opposed the development, which would dwarf the like of Bessy Bell Wind Farm at Newtownstewart one of the largest existing in west Tyrone.
West Tyrone MLA., Michaela Boyle, has also submitted a written question to Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, asking for his “assessment of the impact on the landscape of the Upper Glenelly Calley” the application would have and the “precedent it will set for applications in other conservation areas.”
Meanwhile, it has since emerged that in light of concerns expressed over the increasing number of turbines on the west Tyrone landscape, the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment has commenced a review into wind energy.
It says the review will focus on the environmental and planning aspects of wind energy development with evidence gathered from a range of organisations and individuals, including wind energy companies, councils and those opposed to wind energy development.
Chairperson of the committee, Anna Lo Alliance MLA., who has previously expressed concern over the “disproportionate” number of applications for the area, explained: “As a committee, we are keenly aware of the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to meet the European Union’s 2020 renewable energy targets. As such, the committee has had a long-standing interest in wind energy, and this review is an important opportunity to respond to the community concerns that have been expressed to us.
“We will consider planning policy with regard to wind turbines; the extent to which wind energy meets our renewable energy commitment; and levels of engagement with local communities.
“In our review, we will consider all the evidence we have collected from those with an interest in wind energy development in Northern Ireland, from energy companies to local communities, to ensure that we get a wider view of the issues at hand.”
The review which could see a change in is due to be presented to the Assembly for approval on November 30. Members of the West Tyrone Against wind Turbines, a campaign group opposed to any further wind farm developments in the area have been granted a meeting with Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, on November 20.
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