West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Sinn Féin Councillor expresses alarm at proposal for 6000 acre Windfarm in the Sperrins.

Published: 17 October, 2013

Glenelly Sinn Féin Councillor Dan Kelly has expressed his alarm at the proposal for a 6000 acre Wind Farm in the Sperrin Mountains. The proposal still at pre-application stage is being is to be brought to Strabane District Council for consideration and comment next week. The proposal for 60 wind turbines on 6000 acres of land belonging to the Blakiston-Houston Estate between Cranagh, Goles and Broughderg is one of the largest proposals to have ever come before the Planning Service.

Speaking ahead of the matter coming before the Council's Environment committee, Cllr Kelly said

"I am alarmed at the prospect of this massive wind farm being proposed in one of the most sensitive landscapes in the whole of the north. Details of the proposal have still not been made public but the local councillor said the "impact that the Dorravil Windfarm proposal would have running along the Glenelly Valley would be devastating.

"The Tourist Board highlight and nominally promote the Glenelly Valley and the wider Sperrins Mountains as one of those vast unspoilt wildernesses. This description has been reinforced in the last eighteen months with the National Geographic selecting the Sperrins to be included in the top 101 of the world's most scenic drives.

"It is beyond belief that the Planning Service would countenance a development of this size and scale on what is supposed to be a protected landscape. It appears the new Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan is intent on continuing the folly of his predecessor by actively lobbying for these developments, telling MLA's in the Assembly last week that 'elected members had a duty' to support these applications.

"This proposal will at one fell swoop, completely undermine and jeopardise the whole tourism potential of the Sperrins region and undo all the work and investment that Strabane District Council amongst other Sperrins based Councils have been engaged in over the last eighteen months."

Speaking of the wider issues which exist with the industry, Cllr Kelly said

"It is not before time that the Assembly's Environment Committee is to begin an investigation into the whole wind energy enterprise, and I would argue that this investigation needs to be extended to cover the relationship that exists between the Minister, Strategic Planning in Belfast and the big Wind Farm developers.

"Energy prices have risen almost 18% this year and another price rise is being touted as being in the pipeline. The big energy companies who are developing these windfarms are pocketing hundreds of millions of pounds in state subsidies which come straight out of our electricity bills and this is before the return they get for selling electricity.

"It is important where these sums of money are changing hands that people have confidence in the planning system and at the minute this is not the case. I would have fears that this reckless and cavalier approach by successive Environment Ministers is undermining confidence in the entire renewable energy project.

"I will be arguing very strongly to persuade my colleagues in the Environment Committee that there are plenty of locations in the north which are more appropriate for this scale of development without the need for the Environment Minister to utterly destroy the landscape character of the Sperrins."