A company which spent more than a decade trying to obtain planning permission for a wind farm in the Scraghey area has finally succeeded.
Altgolan Windfarm Ltd originally applied for 13 turbines – each with a height of 125metres – at the site near Blacktown at the Donegal border, close to the road linking Killen and Ederney. The company was started by Doreen Walker and Mark Lippa, who reside in the Stevenage area of Hertfordshire. The pair are behind a series of bids to erect wind farms around Tyrone.
Despite reducing the size of the proposed wind farm to seven turbines, the bid for the Altgolan project was consistently refused permission until last week.
The decision to refuse by the former Department of the Environment was re-inforced by a ruling from senior commissioner at the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) Julie De-Courcey. She found last year that the seven turbines would be “visually unacceptable and would have an unacceptable impact on active peat”.
However following hearings in November and December last year, the applicants succeeded in having that decision quashed in its entirety last week. A smaller project, made up of five 125m turbines, was granted permission to go ahead following the fresh ruling at the PAC by Commissioner Rosemary Daly last Thursday.
The planning permission includes a series of associated works including transformers, access roads, drainage, an electrical control building and underground electrical cables.
In explaining her reasoning, Commissioner Daly said she had taken account of various written submissions from the date the appeal was first received together with the evidence presented at the appeal hearings.
However she stated that she had not been party to the oral evidence presented to Commissioner De-Courcey.
“All interested parties were advised by the Commission of the new hearing dates and were at liberty to come along and make submission and present their views and comments in respect of the proposed wind farm development at Altgolan,” she submitted in her report.
The 27 page document released last week revealed there are 14 wind farms at various stages of development in the area surrounding the Altgolan project. Eight are already operational, featuring a total of 73 turbines.
One small project is at the PAC. The rest are either under construction, including Tievenameenta and Pigeon Top or not yet built.
In all, the 14 projects include 129 wind turbines.
Both hearings last year were attended by Doreen Walker and a seven strong team of experts, including a barrister and a solicitor.
On the other side of the room were a team of officers from the Derry City and Strabane District Council and the NIEA.
The ruling last week by Commissioner Daly can be challenged at the High Court via a judicial review within the next three months.
However asked whether it will challenge the ruling, a spokesperson for the council said, “[The] council has noted the decision issued by the Planning Appeals Commission in relation to Altgolan Wind Farm and has no comment to make in respect of the matter at this stage.”