A wind farm developer has applied to erect turbines taller than Dublin’s Spire along the scenic Wild Atlantic Way.
Campaigners say the development would make a laughing stock of government efforts to attract tourists to the 2,500km long route from Cork to Derry.
Donegal County Council has twice opposed planning permission for the two turbines overlooking the spectacular Kinnego Bay on Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula.
However, An Bord Pleanala has twice given Derry man Declan Clarke permission to go ahead with the development over the bay where Spanish Armada ships landed in 1588.
Thousands of tourists flock to the area every year and it has been included on the Wild Atlantic Way, a Tourism Ireland initiative boosted by millions of euro of advertising abroad.
The windfarm development hasn’t started yet as Mr Clarke has now applied to increase the size of his turbines to 132 metres – making it one of the biggest structures on the island at 12 metres higher than the Spire on O’Connell Street.
The council has refused permission for the height of the wind turbines on Crockbrack Hill to increase, saying it was contrary to its tourism policy as it is on the Wild Atlantic Way driving route.
In its ruling, the council said its policy was “not to permit development proposals which would detract from the visual quality/amenity on either the approach roads to, or views to be had from significant tourist attractions.”
Residents in the area – where four local glens would be dwarfed by the development – say they have opposed the height increase in its submission to An Bord Pleanala.
“This is probably one of the most spectacular parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, and the idea of two turbines overlooking it is just abhorrent,” said residents’ committee chair David Simpson.
“I can tell you it is upsetting local people as well.
“The drive down through the Long Glen to Kinnego Bay is on the route as well and the whole vista will be destroyed.”
An 80m-high wind testing device was given planning permission to be erected on the site. It must be removed next month after the 15-month period of permission expires.
Mr Clarke was not at his holiday cottage on the proposed site yesterday.
But in his submission to An Bord Pleanala for a height increase to twice that of Letterkenny’s St Eunan’s Cathedral, he insisted: “It is not considered that the purpose of the Wild Atlantic Way is to sterilise all lands from future development along the western coastline of Ireland from Donegal to Cork and all places in between.”
Mr Simpson says the ruling of An Bord Pleanala could have significant repercussions for the entire tourism route.
“At the moment the only areas given absolute protection from windfarms are those with European designations to protect birds and endangered species,” he said. “To be fair Donegal County Council opposed this one as local authorities can only use the criteria of ‘visual amenity’ to reject a development.
“If these wind turbines go ahead then the applicant will be entitled to apply for more structures and it will leave the entire Wild Atlantic Way open to future wind turbine developments. Tourists don’t come to Ireland to look at giant turbines.”
Donegal council said it was carrying out a ‘landscape character assessment’ in order to identify sensitive areas that did not have European designations. An Bord Pleanala is expected to issue a decision early next month.
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