Thursday, 3 October 2013
A CAMPAIGN has been launched to stop a controversial wind farm development in the heart of the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Local residents and businesses have come together to form the 'Binevenagh SOS' campaign to oppose the proposal for 21 wind turbines, which would be one of the biggest wind farms in Northern Ireland.
The turbines will be 125 metres tall, a third the height of Binevenagh, which is 385 metres high, and will be visible from miles around.
A spokesperson said: "The campaign group consists of people from a wide area in and around Binevenagh AONB, including Ballyhackett, Castlerock, Magilligan, Myroe, Limavady and Coleraine.
“Our Facebook page has already attracted over 1,200 followers and we have had messages of support from all around the world. It goes to show how much local residents and tourists love this beautiful area."
The windfarm's developers say construction will pump £20m into the local economy and provide enough green energy to power thousands of homes. ARC NI 1 Ltd predict that the windfarm's 120m turbines will generate over 160,00 MWh of electricity per year, saving 68,914 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
According to objectors, businesses who have expressed support for the campaign include the Ulster Gliding Centre, Portstewart Self-Catering, Downhill Beach House, Cannings Spar and O'Kane Taxis.
The campaign is objecting to the proposal on a number of grounds, including:
* The visual impact of the wind farm on an iconic landmark.
* Proliferation of wind farm developments in teh north west.
* Impact on the local tourism industry
* Damage to Binevenagh's fragile upland peat bogs, including Altikeeragh ASSI, an area of intact blanket bog
* Threat to wildlife, including priority species such as skylarks, the Irish hare, common lizard and freshwater mussels
* Unsuitability of narrow roads for construction vehicles
* Threatened closure of the Ulster Gliding Club and one of the best 'soaring sites' for gliders in the British Isles and Ireland.
* Detrimental impact on the setting of the Mussenden Temple and National Trust's Downhill Estate.
“The idea of putting a huge, industrial wind farm into the middle of an AONB and one of the jewels of the North Coast beggars belief," the spokesperson said.
“AONBs in Northern Ireland have little protection under environmental law. In the rest of the UK this proposal would not even be considered."
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan recently admitted that his department's planning policy did not distinguish between AONBs and other undesignated landscapes, although he stated that there would be a 'presumption of failure' where the proposal would result in an 'unacceptable adverse impact on visual amenity or landscape character.
“The comments from the environment minister are encouraging," the spokesperson added. "But we can't be complacent. We would urge everyone to make an objection to the Planning Service now, before it's too late."
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