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Turbine collapse at Screggagh ‘a massive game-changer’, says anti-campaigner

A local group concerned about the impact of wind turbines in West Tyrone has called for recommendations by the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment on wind farms to be urgently implemented.

Owen McMullan, chairman of the West Tyrone Against Wind Turbines group, said he was “thankful” to the committee after they launched an inquiry into wind turbines at Stormont.

Chairperson of the committee, Anna Lo, MLA., recommended that the Department of the Environment (DOE) “take a more strategic approach to the siting of wind turbines”, as well as to carry out an urgent review of current noise guidelines, and ensure planners engage “more effectively with local communities and the planning authorities.”

In a statement to this newspaper, Mr McMullan said: “We are glad that our concerns were listened to and acted upon in getting this inquiry into wind energy launched in the first place and for that, we are very grateful.

“It is hard to believe that this renewable energy policy was being rolled out across the country with no strategic plan in place, while at the same time, offering no protection whatsoever to the citizens who were having industrial wind turbines imposed upon them against their will and, in many cases, without their knowledge or consent.”

However, he added: “The question now is, how long will it take to get these recommendations implemented? The general public is slowly becoming aware that all is not what it was made out to be by all the propaganda from the wind industry and, going by the number of recommendations that the Environment Committee had made, this backs that up.”

Continuing, Mr McMullan said the wind turbine collapse at the Screggagh Wind Farm near Fintona in January was “a massive game-changer”.

He added: “This serious incident really raised the general public’s concerns about public health and safety of industrial wind turbines to a complete new level. More questions are now being asked of the wind industry, the planning department and our environmental health department on public health and safety concerns.

“I have got to say that more questions are being asked than answers given, especially in areas where new planning applications for wind farms have been made recently.”

Mr McMullan also felt that the Committee for the Environment should make various additional recommendations to the DOE, including to call for a moratorium into the health impacts of wind turbines “as a matter of urgency” citing that “many people are currently suffering in their own homes as a result of industrial wind turbines being sited too close to them”.

He also said an immediate embargo should be placed on the processing of all planning applications for wind farms and proposals for single wind turbines and for a complete cessation of those in the process of construction “until proper updated guidelines for noise, shadow flicker, infrasound, setback distances and cumulative impacts have been drafted, consulted upon with all the relevant stakeholders and introduced by the Assembly.”

He added: “We would hope that our comments are taken on board and are considered by the Environment Committee. We would also like to advise the Environment Committee that we are available to give any further assistance in the future on this issue should the need arise.”