A seven-turbine windfarm which planners fear could have an “unacceptable adverse impact” on the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has been granted planning permission.
The scheme, which is situated off the Starbog Road in the Ballykeel and Old Freehold townlands, had been recommended for refusal by planning officers.
However, at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee on December 8, councillors voted against the recommendation in order to give the site the green light.
Planning officer Denise Kerr told councillors that the “critical view points were from the South and East and visual impacts were considered to be unacceptable in the context of the AONB.”
The application had received 41 letters of support and eight objections, she added.
In addition to exerting an “unacceptable adverse impact on the visual amenity and landscape character of the area,” planners also recommended refusal on the grounds that “the development is not of an appropriate design, siting, size and scale for the locality and is not sympathetic to the special character of the designated Antrim Coast and Glens” AONB.
Planners also raised concerns over the “cumulative effects” on visual amenity and landscape character when combined with other wind energy developments.
A spokesperson for agent Canavan Associates said “smaller turbines” would be used with a base to blade tip height of 125 metres and would be “situated on lower ground.” She said the scheme had received “strong support” from the community.
In response to a question from Cllr Billy Henry, Ms Kerr said that visual impact was a “subjective judgement” and that although the turbines were smaller they were still “substantial structures” and “could be seen from a number of critical viewpoints.”
A Canavan Associates spokesperson stated that the windfarm would be situated in an area of “significant screening at the very fringes of the AONB, one of the least sensitive areas of the territory.”
Mrs Kerr respnded that planning policy now advocated a “more cautious approach to wind farm development” in AONBs and that there were concerns the development could “bring together” existing windfarms by filling in the gaps to give the appearance of a “large wind farm.”
Cllr Beth Adger proposed that the committee go against the planners’ recommendation and approve the application, and was seconded by Ald Tommy Nicholl. Planning permission was granted with five councillors in favour, two against and one abstention.