A massive project to erect a wind farm on the doorstep of a popular Cookstown tourist attraction has been met with an outcry from local residents.
The six turbine wind farm is planned for Aughtmore mountain in the townlands of Ballynagilly, Beltonanean, Ballynasollus and Beleevna-More.
Six turbines, each up to a considerable height of 126.5 metres (415 feet), are planned for the mountain, prompting numerous concerns from residents in the idyllic, rural setting.
From the mountain one can see five of the six counties of Northern Ireland, boasting views right across to the Antrim side of Lough Neagh, but now there are fears that view will be blighted by this project, while there are also health, noise, safety, environmental and wildlife concerns with the project.
The scheme itself is extensive, and could involve cutting through parts of the immensely popular Davagh Forest, a tourist attraction pulling in tens of thousands of visitors each year and the subject of a recent significant investment in cycling trails by Cookstown District Council.
In the planning application lodged by Beltonanean Renewable Energy Limited, the scheme would allow for the installation of turbines up to 126.5 metres tall, the widening of existing tracks up the mountain, use of the existing entrance to Davagh Forest off Slaght Road, with access tracks options through Davagh Forest, along with the realignment of a section of the Feegarran Road and widening of the junction of Feegarran and Slaght Roads.
Residents are preparing objections to the plans, with one speaking to the Courier about their grave concerns if the plans get the go ahead from planners.
The lady, who didn’t want to be named as she said the wind farm plans were “divisive in the community”, said: “This is a beautiful area and we don’t want to see something come in and ruin that. People can hardly get a house built but you can stick up six of these monsters.
“It’s quite scary what is being planned for our home and what the effects of it will be.
“It’s a real destruction of the area. They are basically ploughing through Davagh Forest, which the Council has put so much money in to to make it a tourist destination.
“These are wee back country roads they are looking at and it defies belief that it would even be passed.”
In documentation objectors plan to lodge with the authorities, seen by the Courier, they raise a number of concerns with the project.
These include the possibility of the floodgates being opened for more and more turbines if these six were to go ahead, pointing to the Altahullion site in Dungiven, County Londonderry, where 20 turbines in 2003 has turned into 41, “with larger, more powerful turbines at each phase”.
Safety concerns, exacerbated by the collapse of a turbine in Fintona last month, have also been expressed, while environmental concerns, including “pouring tonnes of concrete on to moss land” which, it is claimed, could leach out into waterways and also cause peat slides in wet weather.
Noise and shadow flicker are also concerns, which can lead to sleep deprivation.
As the Courier reported in June last year, a renowned epidemiologist, Dr Alun Evans, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, stated there was a link between wind turbines and health issues, including sleep deprivation and heart disease.
And Sinn Fein Councillor for the area, Sean Clarke, who is also Chairman of the Tyrone Sperrins Tourism Group, has also stated his concerns at the proposed project.
Speaking to the Courier, Cllr Clarke said: “”These turbines are very high on the landscape and are up virtually against Davagh Forest, and I would imagine they would have an impact on Davagh tourism.
“It is also very close to Cookstown. It is probably only four miles away and those mountains are very obvious from a long distance.”
Another issue troubling Cllr Clarke is the area’s presence within the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), while he also says a lot of species of wildlife could be endangered in the area as a result.
And Cllr Clarke is worried about the effect the plans will have on the character of the area.
He says: “It’s a massive engineering process and will require an awful amount of excavation work.
“It will change the character and special features of this area of outstanding natural beauty.”
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