Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Wind farms: Map reveals how they've swarmed across Northern Ireland in 13 years

Wind farms: Map reveals how they have swarmed across Northern Ireland
Wind farms: Map reveals how they have swarmed across Northern Ireland

This is the shocking map that shows the relentless spread of wind turbines across Northern Ireland's countryside.

In the last 13 years an astonishing 2,428 wind power projects have been given the green light from planners in Northern Ireland, leaving some of our most beautiful landscapes crowded with wind turbines.

And a further 849 renewable energy applications are currently waiting for a decision.

Many have branded the giant wind turbines a blight on the landscape, with former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson describing their impact on the Glens of Antrim as "environmental rape".

And wind power critics have claimed that granting planning permission for wind turbines is no more than a rubber-stamping exercise, with 89% of wind turbine planning applications in 2012-13 gaining approval.

Wind farm critics, such as the Tyrone-based Windwatch group, say wind turbines are practically useless at helping to reduce carbon emissions, are failing to drive down energy costs and are destroying landscapes and the lives of people who live near them.

Spokesman Owen McMullan points out that over £140m has been paid out in subsidies to the renewable sector in the last three years in Northern Ireland through the Renewables Obligation.

"We were led to believe this would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but nobody in Northern Ireland is getting cheaper electricity. This is all a con job," he said.

"In some council areas there has been a 100% success rate for planning approvals for wind turbines in recent years. We believe this a rubber-stamping exercise and proper care and attention is not being adhered to."

Planning Service figures showed an overall 89% success rate for wind turbine planning applications for 2012-13, with 106 out of 108 applications in Co Fermanagh given the green light (98%) and 88 out of 92 in Omagh council area (96%).

Mr McMullan says wind power is exacting a heavy cost through divisions in rural communities, negative impacts on countryside, especially Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, loss of jobs, decrease in tourism figures, environmental damage, increasing fuel bills and health concerns.

The rapid pace of wind turbine proliferation has also sparked concerns from a number of MLAs including Ukip's David McNarry, who was outraged over proposals to lease some of NI Water's Mournes holdings to wind farms.

Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Mr Wilson warned of the blight of scenic areas that could result if Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill (left) pressed ahead with plans to turn over some forest parks to wind turbines.

"It is a certainty that it will blight many areas that are seen to be the most scenic areas in Northern Ireland. The average height of a wind turbine is now 350ft and it will be hugely disruptive to wildlife in the area, as well as the usual impact of the infrastructure," he said.

But a DoE spokesperson responded: "All applications for wind turbines, including wind farm applications, in Northern Ireland are processed in line with current published planning policy. It is not a rubber-stamping exercise – it is a legal process and all such applications are determined in the normal manner taking account of the requirements of the legislation."

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