A five fold increase in the value of wind turbines has been blamed, in part at least, for Strabane’s five per-cent rates rise.
There was public outcry last month when the new super council signed off on a 5.23 per-cent rates hike for Strabane while household bills in Derry only went up by 1.29 per-cent.
It has now been claimed that the proliferation of wind turbines that sprinkle the Strabane countryside were responsible for the district’s rates rise.
Recently the government’s Land and Property Services Department carried out a revaluation of all business premises across Strabane, the first of its kind since 2003.
Because of the shift in footfall from Strabane’s traditional town centre to edge-of-town business parks that house stores like Asda, almost 70 per-cent of local shops saw their valuations drop and, by extension, their rates decrease.
A further 20 per-cent stayed as they were while the remaining 10 per-cent of companies saw their bills go up. Within that 10 per-cent business cluster, which included the wind industry, rates rocketed.
Under the Land and Property rates shake-up, the rateable value of Tyrone’s wind farms and wind turbines multiplied by a staggering 468 per-cent on their previous worth. And because of the new valuations, Strabane was deemed to be a full 20 per-cent wealthier than it was in 2003 – 12 per-cent higher than the Northern Ireland average.
On the back of the town’s overall inflated valuation, grant funding from the Department of the Environment was slashed from £3.26 million to £3.08 million. That loss will now have to be absorbed by local householders.
West Tyrone Against Wind Turbines chairman Owen McMullan said it proved once again that the public was not getting value for money when it came to wind energy. His group has long campaigned for a halt to the granting of permission for turbines in West Tyrone until proper studies on the impact to human health and exactly what value for money the public gets are carried out.
“When you look right across West Tyrone and you see how many of these things there are up, where is the value for money to the consumer? There is none,” Mr McMullan said.
“There are almost 3,700 applications in the planning system for single turbines in West Tyrone yet the Environment Committee has already admitted this area is at saturation. Household rates have gone up because of them and what does the consumer get back? Nothing,” he added.
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