Councillors say ‘no’ to 15 turbine wind farm

Mid and East Antrim councillors have voiced opposition to a planning application for a 14-turbine wind farm outside Carnlough on the Antrim Coast, writes Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Concern was expressed at a meeting of the council’s planning committee on Thursday (August 4) over potential “negative impact on tourism”.

The Department for Infrastructure is consulting with the borough council over a planning application submitted by Larne-based company Renewable Energy Systems (RES) based at Millbrook, the same company that is behind a proposal for Ballygilbert Wind Farm outside Ballygally.

The Unshinagh Wind Farm will be located five miles south west of Carnlough and five miles west of Glenarm in the townlands of Drumourne Unshinagh Mountain, if it is given the go-ahead.

The council’s Head of Planning Paul Duffy told the meeting that the site is located within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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

RES says that Unshinagh would have the capacity to deliver one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation for approximately 70,000 homes.

Speaking at the meeting, Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown said: “I think that this planning committee and council as a whole should be answering this consultation with a view of refusal.

“We are talking about an area of natural beauty. It is astounding how anyone thinks that sticking 14 windmills there would be an advantage to this council.

“This council is promoting tourism. Carnlough, as a village, would double its population from April through the summer.  It is a scenic village and to stick wind turbines above the village would be disastrous. I would ask that we respond in the negative.”

Mr Duffy said: “In our response, I can capture members’ view of a negative impact on tourism.”

He expressed concern that if approved it may “prejudice” the council’s draft plan strategy design regarding “constraint on high structures”.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan proposed that the committee responds, raising premature concern regarding potential prejudice of  the authority’s draft plan concerning areas of constraint on high structures.

Larne Lough DUP councillor Alderman Paul Reid stressed that the Coast Road is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“We have turned down one windmill because it was in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Belfast Lough. We have to be consistent.

“We would be opposed to anything that could potentially be a blight on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – something that is contrary potentially to our policy.

“We need to word a very strong letter to emphasise why we are opposed to this.”

Mr Duffy stated: “We will respond to the consultation that the planning committee is of the view that planning permission should be refused.”