Larne company ‘extremely disappointed’ by refusal of Glens of Antrim wind farm proposal

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has refused planning permission for a proposed wind farm within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
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The proposed Unshinagh Wind Farm location is five miles south west of Carnlough and five miles west of Glenarm in the townlands of Drumourne Unshinagh Mountain.

The Larne-based company behind the project, Renewable Energy Systems (RES), says it is “extremely disappointed by the decision and will take the opportunity to carefully review the reasons for refusal”.

The plan involves 14 turbines up to 180 metres in height with a maximum rotor diameter of up to 136m. The site would include external electricity transformers; underground cabling; entrance and access tracks to be put in place during a 12-month construction phase.

An artist’s impression of the proposed wind farm location. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact AssessmentAn artist’s impression of the proposed wind farm location. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact Assessment
An artist’s impression of the proposed wind farm location. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact Assessment

The proposed site entrance is located to the eastern boundary of the site and is approximately 150m north of Doonan Leap Car Park.

DfI said that in reaching the decision, the Permanent Secretary of the Department has given “full and careful consideration to all material planning considerations”.

Renewable Energy

“Due cognisance was given to the contribution that renewable energy can make to both the economy and tackling climate change; however, in this case, the significant harm that would be caused to the landscape of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the ecological impacts on protected species within the Antrim Hills Special Protection Area, along with the archaeological, cultural and tourism assets in the locality outweighed the economic and environmental benefits.”

The proposed development was for 14 turbines up to 180 metres in height. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact AssessmentThe proposed development was for 14 turbines up to 180 metres in height. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact Assessment
The proposed development was for 14 turbines up to 180 metres in height. Pic: RES Landscape and Impact Assessment

DfI reported six objections were received in relation to the application and one letter in support. The Notice of Opinion to refuse will now be issued to the applicant and Mid and East Antrim Council which may seek a hearing before the Planning Appeals Commission within 42 days of the date of the Notice of Opinion.

The Department has been consulting with the council over the planning application. Councillors voiced opposition to the planning proposal over potential “negative impact on tourism”.

Commenting on the decision, Jennifer McCorry, senior development project manager at RES, said: “This week, we learned that 2023 was the world’s hottest year on record, a sobering reminder of the real and present dangers posed by climate change.

“In response, Northern Ireland has rightly set legally binding targets to deliver 80 per cent of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030. To achieve these targets, we urgently need more domestic renewables generation, from projects like Unshinagh, to help deliver clean, low cost electricity for Northern Ireland consumers.

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“In 2022 alone, Northern Ireland consumers avoided paying £500 million to import gas because of electricity provided by wind. We had estimated that Unshinagh would involve a capital spend of £61m and of this total, £24.7m would be realised within the Northern Ireland economy. In terms of jobs, we had also projected that the 12-month construction would create up to £5m of wages.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision and will take the opportunity to carefully review the reasons for refusal.”

Coast Road DUP Councillor Andrew Clarke said: “The Antrim Coast is an area of incredible and unique beauty. The need for renewable energy must be balanced with protecting our incredible landscape. Congratulations are due to local residents and businesses who made their informed concerns heard with clarity.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter