AN Islandmagee couple have likened the proliferation of wind turbines in Northern Ireland to bungalow blight in Donegal.
Chris and Elizabeth Lynn believe they have good reason to be anxious about the increasing number of green-energy installations, as a neighbour has applied for planning permission for a turbine close to their home at Ballystrudder Road.
However, the Lynns are keen to point out: “This is not a case of ‘not in my back yard’; it’s more like why not build closer to the applicant’s own back yard?”
Planning Service has been consulting on Ivan Marsden’s application for a 150-kilowatt turbine on a 30-metre (98ft) hub to be positioned in a field 227 metres across the road from Mr and Mrs Lynn’s property.
It isn’t so much the prospect of a blot on the landscape that Chris and Elizabeth dread; rather it is the potential for noise pollution that upsets them.
“If I look out the window in the direction of the proposed site, I probably wouldn’t see the turbine for the trees, although I would see it in winter when the leaves have gone. But what would be constant would be the incessant whirr of the rotor blades,” said Mr Lynn.
Having carried out some research and read of cases of turbine motors catching fire and rotors separating from hubs, the Lynns are convinced they don’t want to live close to one.
“These are referred to as freak accidents, but Renewable UK, the industry’s trade body, lists 1,500 accidents in five years,” Chris claimed. ”Although of many different sorts and magnitudes,” he added.
Mr and Mrs Lynn also question the wisdom of allowing hundreds of windmills to be erected in the countryside.
Chris said: “We are told there are 800 or so applications for wind turbines in the planning process as we speak, with more to come. How many? Who knows? Where? Everywhere, obviously. To a field near you, as they say.”
He added: “Seriously, renewable energy is of course a good thing, but this will be like the bungalow blight in Donegal. And worse, much worse, because too many bungalows may be an eyesore but they don’t usually whirl round, are not 125 feet high, and don’t make continuous annoying noises.
“Fortunately, up to now, not many have been erected near peoples’ houses, but it looks like that is about to change. I am told by someone in local government that Environmental Health don’t even begin to take an interest in noise levels at more than 250 metres away.”
The Northern Ireland planners’ own guideline, PPS 18, cites a minimum distance of 500 metres between turbines and dwellings. Mr Lynn pointed out: “There is a Bill going through the House of Lords to establish minimum distances for turbines from dwellings in England and Wales. They’re considering a 1,000-metre zone, which would be more acceptable.”
The Lynns’ letter of objection is one of 21 received by Planning Service. Mr and Mrs Lynn said they have no objection to any of the much smaller turbines which have been erected in the area recently which cause them no problems and they question the need for a 150kw model to be so close to dwellings.
Islandmagee councillor John Mathews said he supports renewable energy, but shared the Lynns’ concerns about proximity to dwellings.
“I am in favour of alternative wind power generally and if I had a site in the right place I would probably apply for a wind turbine myself,” he stated.
“However, I believe that we should be putting turbines in places where they are going to be least obstructive and are not a blight on the landscape before we start to try and fill up those places where they are going to raise objections,” said the Alliance representative, who added that he would favour the one kilometre limit being legislated for in England and Wales.
“That would be more acceptable in Northern Ireland than the present scattergun approach of trying to put up turbines on every drumlin, without any strategic thinking. The guideline for planners here stipulates 500 metres, but for some reason they seem to be ignoring it.
“I have met with Stewart Dickson, MLA, who is to raise these concerns at the Assembly,” Cllr Mathews added.