Ballygally locals have voiced concerns that a 98-foot wind turbine could set a precedent in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
The 30-metre high structure was recently erected just over 400 metres northeast of the Dickeystown Road, and Ballygally residents say it is “highly visible” from the village.
The wind turbine application was lodged in the name of Alexander Morrow, husband of former Larne mayor Maureen Morrow who is now an alderman on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Ald Morrow also sits on the board of directors of the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust.
Ald Morrow told the Times that she took “nothing to do” with the project, either in council or at home.
Mr Morrow said he is disappointed that some people oppose the turbine.
Chair of Ballygally Community Development Association, Brian Magee, said he felt planners should have taken more consideration of the view from surrounding villages before approving an appeal against a decision to refuse.
Stressing he was not speaking for the community group, he stated: “In Ballygally we didn’t even know about the turbine until it appeared a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m all for wind power and I’m supportive of renewable energy, but I would question how this has been considered by planning, as it is standing alone on a prominent site.
“It has changed the Ballygally skyline dramatically. This could set a precedent. Does it mean there will be a free-for-all?”
Another Ballygally resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “People are very, very angry as this is supposed to be an area of unspoilt natural beauty.
“That’s the reason productions like Game of Thrones come here to film.
“People are happy with wind turbines in the right place, but everyone is worried this will set a precedent for future development in the AONB.
“What if we end up with a wind turbine on the headland of each of the nine Glens?”
Coast Road Alliance Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna said she was “very disappointed” at the Planning Appeal Commission’s approval of the turbine due to its visual impact on the AONB.
“I have had a lot of complaints and I will be writing to the Planning Appeals Committee to express my disappointment in their decision,” she said.
The planning application for the Dickeystown Road turbine was refused in May 2013 on the grounds of “an unacceptable adverse impact on the visual amenity and landscape character of this rural area”.
A visual assessment from surrounding villages and the headland was made at that stage. However, a Planning Appeals Commissioner overturned the decision on appeal in December 2013, when a commissioner stated that the department’s “main concern” was the impact from the A2 Coastal Route.
She noted that “only the blades” of the proposed turbine would be seen due to the site’s topography when approaching from the coastal route, and that the eyes would be drawn away due to the road layout. The commissioner therefore “did not consider that the proposed wind turbine would have an unacceptable adverse visual impact on this part of the A2 Coast Road or be insensitive to the character and landscape quality of this AONB.”
Permission was granted for the turbine to remain for 25 years from its first connection to the electricity grid.
A spokesperson for MEA Borough Council, who took control of local planning in April 2015, said “no precedent had been set” for building wind turbines on headlands in AONBs and “each application has to be considered on its own merits”.
Ald Morrow said the application had been lodged before she became a councillor and that, during her time on council, she had “stayed out of” discussions on the application due to a “conflict of interest”.
“I have taken nothing to do with it, either in council or here at home,” she stated.
Her husband Alexander told the Times that he had leased the land on which the turbine is situated to Glenview Green Energy Ltd, who are using the structure to generate electricity for the grid.
“When it came through the Planning Appeals Commission I was more content that everything was right,” he stated.
“It is up to planners if more turbines are built in AONBs. Maybe this could set a precedent, or perhaps others have set a precedent for this.
“I haven’t done anything illegal but I know wind turbines are controversial. I’m disappointed people are against it.”