Plans to create a string of wind turbines on the edge of the Mourne Mountains have been attacked.
The proposals are being developed by the firm ABO Wind, and would involve up to 12 turbines of 125 metres (410 ft) in height at the western edge of the mountain range.
By comparison, Belfast’s giant Obel tower stands at 85m (279ft).
No planning application has been submitted for the site to the south-west of Hilltown, and some urged caution before passing judgment.
However, criticism of the plans was already mounting on Wednesday.
A drop-in session had been held at the Downshire Arms in Hilltown from 2pm to 9pm on Tuesday, allowing members of the public to learn about the blueprints, and briefing notes from the firm had also been circulated to councillors.
Henry Reilly, Ukip councillor for Newry and Mourne, said several residents had contacted him and were “very disturbed” by the proposals.
He said that a major push to draw visitors to the area is currently under way, including plans for a cross-Carlingford Lough ferry.
“That’s a massive tourism boost,” he said.
“And then to blight the landscape you’re trying to invite people into with huge turbines just does not make sense.”
SDLP councillor Connaire McGreevy was similarly critical, saying that the development would be “a monstrosity” in the region’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“Twelve 125m turbines would be visible from the top of Slieve Donard,” he said.
“They would be visible from a lot of places within the Mournes, when we’re trying to attract tourism to the area.”
But party colleague Gillian Fitzpatrick wished to study the plans in greater detail before making her mind up – something echoed by Friends of the Earth.
The group has been highly critical of development within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but is also firmly in favour of renewable energy, and director James Orr said: “We’d take a reasonably nuanced position on it. We’re not just saying ‘put renewables in everywhere’ – far from it…
“We’d need to look at the details, the scale of it, and the impacts. Then we could say yes or no.”
According to an ABO Wind fact sheet, Gruggandoo Wind Farm would be “sensitively sited in a sparsely populated area within the undulating landscape to minimise visual impact on the landscape character of the area”.
It adds the turbines “have been intentionally set back from the foothills and steep summits of the rugged upland landscape of the High Mournes”.
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