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Narrow defeat for Whitehead turbine plan

A controversial plan to erect a wind turbine at a scenic beauty spot overlooking Whitehead and Islandmagee has been rejected by councillors.

Whitehead Golf Club’s application to erect a 41.9m high turbine at McCrae’s Brae was narrowly voted down at Mid and East Antrim Council’s latest planning committee meeting, despite a recommendation for approval by planners.

Senior planner Denise Kerr pointed out that there were significant objections – currently 1,098 – plus one petition of objection (12 signatures) to the proposed turbine which, she said, was a replacement for two existing smaller turbines.

Alderman Gregg McKeen said he was “disappointed with the recommendation to approve”, expressing fears that the turbine would be “detrimental to the visual amenity of the area” and would be visible from viewing platforms at the Gobbins cliff path.

The planning officer, however, said she had visited the Gobbins and told the committee: “For most of the walk on the Gobbins path you will not see it (the proposed turbine) at all. Even though it is on the hill, against the sky, it will not be conspicuous because of the intervening distance.”

Principal Planning Officer Paul Duffy stated: “We accept it will have a visual impact but we don’t think we could sustain a refusal on those grounds.”

Ald McKeen told the meeting he believed “we have grounds under policy PPS18 that we could turn this down”.

MLA Gordon Lyons said he also believed the committee had grounds to object under PPS18. “Detriment to the visual amenity and landscape character are reasons for turning this down…and there are over 1,000 people that agree with that,” he said.

Cllr Andrew P Wilson proposed that the committee refuse the recommendation, stating he believed the siting of the turbine would have “unacceptable visual impact” and this was seconded by Cllr Billy Henry.

The committee supported the proposal by five votes for and four against.