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A wide-ranging re-examination of the Province’s approach to wind farms has been called for by Stormont politicians.
A report from a group of MLAs said the Department of the Environment to say when enough is enough when it comes to the siting of wind farms in an area.
It found that west Tyrone had already reached “saturation point” in terms of the number of turbines spread across the landscape, and called for a clear definition of exactly what the limit should be.
It also called for a fresh look at how noise is monitored, better public engagement by developments, and how far turbines should be from homes.
At the moment, Planning Police Statement 18 simply advises only that a 500m (1,640ft) separation distance “will generally apply”.
However, when delivering the Environment Committee’s findings to the Assembly on Tuesday, chairwoman Anna Lo said that the MLAs had “agreed instead that a minimum setback distance should now be determined by the department.”
She told the Assembly that, while MLAs had considered the setting up of zones to highlight the most appropriate places for wind farms, “it was too late” for places like west Tyrone.
Ms Lo also said that the issue of noise from wind turbines had proved the most contentious aspect of their whole investigation.
She expressed concern that “there does not appear to be continuous long-term monitoring of noise from wind farms, either by developers or by the relevant public sector organisations”.
She said independent research should now be done to assess what the impact of such “low-frequency noise” is on residents within earshot.
The report – which has been about five months in the making – also makes reference to the spectacular collapse of a turbine in January on the Screggagh wind farm, between Fintona and Fivemiletown.
Jim Allister asedk Ms Lo: “Would the member agree that, if that collapse which occurred in Co Tyrone had occurred at some of the large, quasi-urban sited turbines, that the consequences could have been wholly catastrophic in terms of the loss of life?”
Ms Lo agreed, and said they would be keeping a close eye on results of a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report into the incident – with the committee urging any of its recommendation to be acted on as soon as possible.
An investigation by manufacturer Nordex said the disaster was down to a “unique fault” in the system controlled its spinning blades.
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