A wind farm on the outskirts of Hilltown could still be on the cards as an appeal against its refusal will be heard later this year.
A notice of opinion to refuse planning permission for 12 wind turbines off the Mullaghgarriff Road was issued by the then Minister of the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) Chris Hazzard last November.
However, the applicant ABO Wind Ltd wished to “have the opportunity to appear before and be heard by the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC)”.
It is understood this will happen later this year. A DfI spokesman confirmed last week that a date for hearing will be made after 6 April.
“The applicant, ABO Wind Ltd also indicated that it wished to submit further environmental information in support of its application,” said the department spokesman.
“The Department has requested that this is submitted to it by 6 April at which point it will be processed by way of public advertisement and consultation with appropriate bodies.
“Following further assessment of the information, the department will contact the PAC again to make further necessary arrangements for a hearing.”
The two year-long campaign running by Mourne AONB Against Wind Farm group opposing the planned 12-turbine windfarm in Hilltown is gaining momentum with only days to go to the Stormont election.
Following a series of meetings with candidates standing on Thursday, the group is assured by the support of the majority of South Down candidates’ statements on the application.
Alliance candidate Councillor Patrick Brown said he is “concerned that the location of this particular wind farm is not suitable and would have an adverse impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which it would be located in, which could affect the tourism product and economic development to our area”.
Gary Hynds, Conservatives said his party believes there are serious doubts about relying upon wind power to build a greener economy.
“We intend to include hydro-electricity, tidal energy, anaerobic digestion and geo-thermal in the renewal mix. I will work to oppose this application with your group.”
Jim Wells MLA for DUP totally supports the campaign stating: “There are areas within Co Down where wind farms may be acceptable, but the Mournes AONB is simply the worst possible location to place 12 massive turbines.
“The proposed wind farm will create an industrial landscape which will totally destroy the stunning views and natural habitats which make this area so special. The whole wind farm industry is sustained by large scale subsidies and these have already had a massive impact on important landscapes in areas such as West Tyrone. It is vital that we learn from mistakes made elsewhere and protect the Mournes from massive steel towers dotting the landscape.”
Independent candidate Patrick Clarke is totally opposed to the planning application and said: “Our AONB must be protected as part of our natural heritage.”
Last November Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard, Sinn Fein, published a Notice of Opinion to refuse planning permission.
TUV candidate Lyle Rea said: “Members of the TUV Mourne branch fully support the efforts of the Group to resist the granting of planning approval for wind farms anywhere within the Mournes AONB.”
SDLP’s Sinead Bradley MLA has failed to respond to attempts by the group to arrange a meeting. Harold McKee MLA from UUP did not wish to meet with the group.
Mr Hazzard refused the application for nine reasons, one being that “the proposal would not outweigh the potential detrimental impact on the unique qualities of the Mourne Mountains special countryside area”.
The wind farm would have comprised of 12 wind turbines with a maximum height 125m and all associated and ancillary works for the townlands of Gruggandoo, Grugganskeagh and Mullaghgarve.
ABO Wind Ltd said “the proposed scheme could generate 124.88 million kwh of clean, green electricity per year, enough to supply approximately 29,948 homes and reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 53,700 tonnes, the equivalent to taking approximately 40,153 cars off the road”.
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