Proposed Graffy wind farm turned down by planners

LAST week the Donegal News reported on lengthy discussions at the November plenary meeting of Donegal County Council to review the objectives and policies within the County Development Plan for wind turbines.
Many councillors spoke on how the county has reached “saturation point” with wind turbines and there was unanimous support for amending the plan to continue with the policy of safeguarding fresh water pearl rivers from turbines and to reinstate the policy of placing them ten times tip height from homes.
Following on from that comes confirmation that council planners have refused planning on the proposed Graffy wind farm.
A number of reasons are cited, including likely significant impacts on a variety of protected species including the fresh water pearl mussel, salmon, merlin, golden eagle and white-tailed eagle.
Sue Ajmi of the Graffy Environmental Group said that they were delighted with the news.
“This wind farm has been through five turns at planning over the past nine months with much local opposition. For the last application it received thirty-eight objections many of them from people with a high regard for landscape and hiking. Graffy is located at the head of the Big Glen, on the Fintown road to the rear of the imposing Achla mountain.
“Planners also refused by reason of Policy NH-P-6 of the County Donegal Development Plan which designates the Graffy area as being of Especially High Scenic Amenity (EHSA),” Ms Ajmi said.
The Council policy states that: “EHSA landscapes are defined as ‘sublime natural landscapes of the highest quality that are synonymous with the identity of County Donegal. These areas have extremely limited capacity to assimilate additional development”.
The Graffy Environmental Group noted that the aspect of landscape value in to the county from a tourism and a wilderness hiking area was raised by many people in their submissions.
Mr Jarlath Winters is Estate Manager Glenmore Fisheries which is owned by Mick Hucknall and Chris de Margary, lead men with the renowned rock group Simply Red.
Mr Winters cites much scientific evidence regarding impact on the River Finn SAC but he brought owners Simply Red’s objection down to a heartfelt plea to Donegal planners:
 Idyllic countryside
“People come to stay and fish the world class river (Finn) and enjoy one of the most beautiful places on this earth, Donegal. They do not want to see the idyllic countryside spoiled by huge windmills taking away from the spectacular uninterrupted views.
“I beg you as planners not to continue this onslaught on our beautiful countryside. Surely Donegal would benefit in a more sustainable manner with its development as an un-spoilt tourist destination in one of the most remote corners of Europe, facing onto the wild Atlantic. Surely short-lived windfarm developments are not in the counties best interest only in the interest of those who benefit from their short-term gain,” he wrote.
Founding member of Walk on the Wild Side, Ardara man, Kevin Maguire, extolled the virtues of the Donegal uplands telling planners that “many of the tourists who come to Donegal is because they have read in the likes of the Lonely Planet, that Donegal is the place that put the wild into the WAW.
“All of the visitors that I take to the top of Achla are just blown away with the views stretching out over six counties. The developer tries to hide that viewpoint from you; there is no more central, no more radial a viewpoint to be had in Donegal with untouched wilderness all around,” he wrote.
Alan Tees of Colmcille Climbing Club and a former president of Mountaineering Ireland said: “In my opinion the Donegal uplands are at saturation point with turbines and whilst I am supportive of wind farms as a source of sustainable energy, any further development would be most unwelcome to those of us who value this landscape, particularly one so close to one of our best mountains, Achla”. He sees turbines as a “lucrative business” for remote developers and though “Donegal may be remote from Dublin, but its landscape is priceless to us all, enough is enough”.
Donegal’s natural landscapes
Ursula McPherson, a director of Gartan Outdoor Education and Training Centre, spoke with the “prescriptive of someone who lives in Co Donegal and who has for over three decades been involved in introducing others to climbing, hillwalking, kayaking, running and outdoor education in Donegal’s natural landscapes” saying “Donegal’s upland landscape is central to our tourism offering“.
Author of recently published ‘Wild Mountain Way – Donegal on Foot and Alone’, Adrian Gallagher, expressed similar views on the landscape as a primary tourism asset for Donegal. “My major concern is the ongoing erosion of the Donegal landscape by these huge complexes of towering machines, many new roads and trackways plus powerlines and electrical substations” and called on Donegal County Council to “save this great wilderness area”
Commenting on the great relief felt by supporters of the Graffy Environmental Group, Sue Ajmi said: “With over 300 turbines already in the acclaimed Donegal landscape the winds of change are coming.
“It appears that the views of those opposing wind farm applications are for the first time dove-tailing with the views of councillors and planners and that is surely something positive. We anxiously await publication of the proposed amendment to the County Development Plan in January”.

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