Planning permission has been denied for what would have been Northern Ireland’s biggest ever wind farm.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon rejected the application for Doraville wind farm, which would have erected 33 turbines in the Sperrin Mountains near Draperstown.
Ms Mallon said it had been “a finely balanced decision” weighing up the benefits against harm to an area of outstanding natural beauty.
“I carefully considered both the findings of the independent public inquiry alongside the recommendations of my planning officials,” she said.
“I am a huge advocate for renewable energy that will create sustainable infrastructure for future generations. Green infrastructure represents a real opportunity for tackling the climate emergency and helping boost the economy but this should never be at the cost of the surrounding environment.”
She said having 33 wind turbines would cause “considerable harm” to the landscape, which did not outweigh the economic and environmental benefits.
“The PAC (Planning Appeals Commission) report indicates that the scale of the proposal and the sheer magnitude of the associated change has the potential to detract from local people’s sense of place and connection to the land.
“My aim is to improve people’s lives, not add to their burden so taking all of this into account, and in line with the PAC recommendation, I have decided to refuse this application.”
The decision was welcomed by Sinn Fein MLA Declan McAleer and Mid Ulster councillor Sean Clarke, who is also chair of Broughderg Area Development Association.
Mr Clarke said the project would have been “seriously detrimental” to the local landscape.
“While we must endeavour to find ways to promote renewable and green energy, this cannot be to the detriment of the environment and local community’s quality of life and even the ultimate sustainability of the local community,” he said.
Mr McAleer added: “Our local community want to develop the Sperrins for the benefit of residents and for tourist purposes and 33 wind turbines towering over the landscape would have undoubtedly scarred this area of natural beauty.”
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