Planning permission has been lodged for a wind farm outside Hilltown – six months after a previous bid was turned down.
This time, the application is for a smaller 10-turbine wind farm instead of 12.
The application for the earlier proposed wind farm off the Mullaghgarriff Road proved controversial during its 21 months in the planning process, amassing over 600 objections and support letters.
The Department of Infrastructure decided to refuse the development last November after taking into account planning policies, the development plan for the area in the heart of the Mournes and representations from interested parties.
However in the past few weeks an amended application has been submitted to Planning Service by the same applicant, ABO Wind Ltd.
The company says it has amended the proposal “as the number of proposed turbines has been reduced from 12 to 10”.
“Turbines 11 and 12 located to the northeast of the site have been removed from the proposal along with all associated infrastructure.
“A new turning head immediately north-east of turbine nine is now proposed to accommodate access.
Importantly, the layout of the remaining 10 proposed turbines has not changed from the previous Environmental Statement (ES) that was submitted.” The applicant also provided planners with an amended ES which they say “has taken into consideration the amended proposal across all environmental disciplines and the associated application drawings and necessary forms have been updated to reflect same”.
ABO Wind Ltd says it is “committed to establishing a Community Benefit fund in the local community that will contribute £3.25m over a period of 20 years which may be utilised to support a wide range of activities in the local area”.
In the intervening period since the first application was submitted in March 2015, ABO Wind says it has “committed to supporting a number of local community and environmental groups/ initiatives throughout the life span of the wind farm”.
These include the British Trust for Ornithology, Hilltown Mart, Clonduff GAA and Local Electricity Discount Scheme for those living within 1.5km of the site – to date, 39 homes have signed legal agreements to benefit from the scheme.
“The funds will be released to the groups on either commencement of construction or operation of the wind farm, depending on the nature of the legal agreement reached with ABO Wind,” a spokesman told council.
In the amended application, it says the proposed wind farm will deliver “substantial benefits” to the Northern Ireland economy and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The scheme “will support electricity production of 101.2GWh per year, enough to meet the needs of 24,263 homes”.
“Furthermore, helping to reduce CO2 emissions by 43,507 tonnes each year.” Twelve letters of objection have already been submitted to Planning Service with regards to this amended proposal.
The Department of Infrastructure previously concluded that the proposal would have an unacceptable impact on the visual amenity and landscape character of the area.
They said the proposal would be “unsympathetic to the special character of the Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)” and would be likely to harm the nationally protected species of the red kite.
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