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Nichola Mallon asked to agree to inquiry into Mournes wind farm project

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Inspirational sight: the Mournes at Newcastle

Inspirational sight: the Mournes at Newcastle

Inspirational sight: the Mournes at Newcastle

Stormont minister Nichola Mallon is being asked to agree to another public inquiry into a plan for a wind farm - this time on the Mourne Mountains.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council last night carried a motion to ask the Infrastructure Minister to rubber-stamp another Public Local Inquiry so that a decision can be made on the application for eight turbines of a maximum 142.5 metres at Gruggandoo.

It came on the same day that the SDLP minister refused planning permission for Doraville Wind Farm in the Sperrins.

Last night councillors heard from planning officer Anthony McKay - who recommended that it is "considered to be unacceptable in planning terms" - and heard presentations from applicants ABO Wind and lobby group Mourne AONB Against Wind Farms.

Afterwards a proposal from the SDLP's Pete Byrne was passed after councillors debated their response.

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He said: "I think it would only be prudent that we propose that the council writes to the Infrastructure Minister seeking clarity on whether this planning application warrants a public inquiry and if so, we request that the minister establishes a public inquiry and that we as a council don't take a formal decision on this planning application."

Sinn Fein councillor Willie Clarke said that he was going to propose that Ms Mallon holds an independent inquiry with "a robust interrogation of this proposal". Mr Byrne responded that he felt they were both in agreement and "on the same page".

He added that he had "absolutely no problem saying that we write and ask" for a public inquiry and Mr Clarke replied that in that case Sinn Fein would be happy to support the motion.

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Concern: Councillor Henry Reilly believed the council sent out a very weak message

Concern: Councillor Henry Reilly believed the council sent out a very weak message

Concern: Councillor Henry Reilly believed the council sent out a very weak message

Not everyone supported it, including independent councillor Henry Reilly, who said: "I'm very concerned that the council will give out a very weak message.

"And it does look as if councillors who may actually want this project want to hide behind a public inquiry and it's an awful way to do politics - a shocking way to do politics - that we can't come out, having heard all the comments and discussion, how anybody can support this is beyond me.

"And what happens if Nichola Mallon writes back and says, 'I didn't ask you for a comment on a public inquiry, I asked you to make a decision as a statutory consultee'?

"We can't be this weak. Either if you support it come out and support it and if you don't, don't support it but we can't dismiss our statutory function - it's either for or against and we live with that. But this is pathetic."

The revised proposal from Mr Byrne, seconded by his SDLP colleague Declan McAteer and put to the vote, was "that this council writes to the Minister Nichola Mallon calling for an independent public inquiry into this application". It was declared carried after 35 councillors voted for it, with independent Cadogan Enwright abstaining and three councillors against it - independents Henry Reilly, Mark Gibbons and Jarlath Tinnelly.


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