A COUNCILLOR has expressed disbelief that not a single objection was lodged against a wind farm on a North Antrim hillside containing some of the biggest turbines ever seen in the borough.
The application for the Armoy wind farm was turned down by Causeway Coast and Glens planning committee last week despite the apparent lack of opposition.
Members upheld a recommendation to refuse based on the visual impact of the scheme's 150m turbines and their effect on the setting of an historic round tower and listed church.
Concerns were also raised over public safety, given the turbines' proximity to nearby houses.
The firm behind the scheme, ABO Wind NI Ltd, said the plant represented a £33m investment providing green energy capable of powering 27,000 homes.
They also insisted a wide ranging public consultation exercise was conducted including distribution of leaflets, press notices and a drop-in event in Armoy attended by 30-40 locals.
In fact the application attracted 97 letters of support and, according to the planners report, any issues raised face-to-face with the applicant were apparently addressed without the need to amend the plan.
When the committee met on Wednesday, it was the lack of opposition that shocked Councillor Padraig McShane.
“The thing I find staggering is that people living within 500 yards of this facility are not objecting,” he said.
According to planners, the majority of supporting submissions were “standard letters which were reproduced and signed by different supporters.”
Among the remaining 34, at least 18 were from people living outside the immediate area and two were from people “financially involved in the wind farm ie landowners.”
A letter of support was also received from North Antrim MLA, Jim Allister.
Addressing Wednesday's meeting the applicant's agent said Causeway Coast and Glens Council's interpretation of policies aimed at ensuring public safety was “totally at odds” with its province-wide application.
She also suggested the government department responsible for protecting monuments had strayed away from its mandate over cultural heritage and into protecting views.
“I can point to a number of scheduled monuments that co-exist with wind farms,” she added.
And the agent insisted wind farm policy required planners to balance the turbines' visual impact with social and economic benefits, which include an £8m rates boost over 25 years, almost £2m in wages for local employees and community fund of £1.2m.
In its report the Council accepted wind farms by their very nature are highly visible, but the author says the Armoy scheme would fundamentally change the character of the landscape.
“Due to the location of the turbines on the higher slopes of Croaghan Hill, they will be visually dominant in the landscape, particularly when viewed from the low lying landscape to the west,” the report states.
“From here the turbines are particularly dominant as they introduce a large scale structures into the upper planes of the hillside.
“These were previously untouched and breaking the skyline makes them more obtrusive.
“The introduction of these man-made structures would have an unacceptable detrimental impact on the unspoilt wild character of the hill.”