Council divided over 395ft turbines

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Larne councillors have expressed fears that a scenic beauty spot could be blighted by plans to construct a major wind farm.

Developer ABO Wind wants to erect nine turbines – each with a proposed blade tip height of 120.5 metres (395 feet) – near Feystown, at a total cost of £38.5m.

But the project is inside the designated Glens of Antrim Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which is subject to stringent greenbelt planning regulations.

And councillors are concerned that the location of the facility could damage tourism in the area by spoiling much-loved views of the countryside.

ABO Wind estimates the wind farm could generate enough electricity to supply 21,000 homes and reduce CO2 emissions by 42,000 tonnes.

And the company says there has been “strong support” for its proposal from the local community, with 96 letters in favour of the plans.

A delegation from ABO Wind attended Larne Borough Council’s monthly meeting on Monday to present their plans to members.

Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna said she was “shocked” by the scale of the proposed turbines.

She added: “I was brought up in Feystown and I am passionate about the area. This is a highly sensitive location and council is promoting the Glens as an area of tourism.

“This proposal has divided the community, which is very sad.

Do you think this development is right for that area?” she asked the applicant.

Cllr Mulvenna also claimed that 140 people have signed a petition against the proposals.

Ald Winston Fulton said the development would “destroy a local tourist attraction”.

However, Ald Roy Beggs felt the proposal could create a new tourist attraction for the area.

A representative from ABO Wind said the Feystown location had been selected because the area had “excellent wind resources, good proximity to the grid, a low population density and low visibility from Glenarm, Carnlough and Ballygally”.

She also explained that the wind farm would not be visible from long distances, as it would be concealed by the surrounding landscape.

Members also heard that the project would benefit the local people in a number of ways, including the establishment of a £2.5m community fund.

The developer said it would aim to use local contractors as much as possible on the project.

Other schemes would include ABO Wind teaming up with a local company to deliver broadband in rural areas, and an education programme to teach local school children about renewable energy.

ABO Wind’s application was submitted to the Planning Service in May, 2013.