By Conor Sharkey
WEST Tyrone’s natural landscapes along the Donegal border are being reduced to “industrial sites” by the wind industry, Strabane District Council has warned.
In a damning response to three wind farm applications, councillors said that it had reached the stage where former rural beauty attractions were becoming little more than “sites used for the manufacture of electricity”.
The comments were made after applications were lodged with the Planning Service for a three turbine extension at Seegronan Wind Farm in Killeter, near Castlederg.
A third application has been lodged to reduce Crighshane wind farm, also near Killeter on the Donegal border, by four turbines but with an increase in size of the remaining five.
Seegronan is currently home to nine turbines, while there are 12 on Slieve Kirk.
While the changes requested in those three cases were objected to, the council did get behind an 11 turbine farm in the same area, at Meenablagh in Aghyaran.
They said that the parent company had engaged “open and professionally” and satisfied all concerns raised.
Strabane District Council said that while it acknowledged the contribution the North West of Ireland made in meeting EU renewable energy targets, it had serious concerns over the continuing march of the wind industry across West Tyrone.
The situation has reached the point where the number of turbines was now impacting on population figures, they said.
Speaking on behalf of all 16 elected representatives, council chairman Dan Kelly said, “It is the view of Strabane District Council that a direct impact of clustered wind farms in this area and areas similar to it is the de-population of rural areas.
“This is further added to by the fact that wind farm application approvals in rural areas is leading to a reduction in the planning approvals for dwellings in wind farm host communities, therefore preventing the growth of its population.
“It is also the opinion of Strabane District Council that a further cumulative impact of so many wind farms being granted planning permission in such close proximity to each other is the transformation of rural areas into industrialised sites.
“Former rural landscapes are now reduced to sites used for the manufacture of electricity,” he warned.
Strabane Council added that a further ramification of the rising number of wind farm developments was the infrastructure such as electricity pylons needed to transfer power to the national grid.
Cllr Kelly added that Strabane District Council could not support applications that may prove detrimental to the health of people living in proximity to wind farms and that to date, assurances sought over health risks had fallen on deaf ears.
Owen McMullen is a member of campaign group West Tyrone Against Wind Turbines. He welcomed the new hard line stance being adopted by the council.
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.