A pledge from the London Government’s Energy Minister saying local communities would have a voice in the planning process for wind farms has been welcomed by the leader of the SDLP on Newry and Mourne Council, Councillor Connaire McGreevy.
Minister Michael Fallon has said local authorities, working closely with residents’ groups, should have much higher status than at present in the decision process to approve or reject wind farm applications.
Councillor Connaire McGreevy said the clarification by the Minister was particularly important in relation to proposed erection of a wind farm off the County Down coast.
“While the plans by First Flight to develop such a controversial project are still at a relatively early stage it is very important that we have as much transparency on the matter as possible.
“Given that we are also at the start of the reorganisation of Local Government structures across County Down with Newry and Mourne Council merging with Down District Council, we need to have all the facts out in the open.
“In this part of the island of Ireland we rely on tourism as being the mainstay of our economy. We need to ensure that the big business profit philosophy behind organisations such as First Flight is not allowed to completely dictate the tone of the debate.
“It must be understood that the Government’s current policies on renewable energy are no excuse for building wind farms in the wrong place.
“Certainly there could be absolutely no justification for permission to be given for the development of an offshore wind farm if it is going to have a detrimental effect on our tourism industry,” Mr. McGreevy said.
Councillor McGreevy said that what was required in relation to permission for wind farm developments was a package of measures that clearly had broad public support.
He added: “It should be up to local communities in the proposed new Council area to be able to produce their own plans in order to help shape where developments should and should not take place.
“While of course there is a big role for wind farm linked energy to play in the overall contribution to the national grid it must not be at the expense of having eyesore projects imposed against the wishes of those directly affected.
“Nobody in their right mind for example could possibly argue that it would be acceptable to have a huge offshore wind farm erected in Dundrum Bay or Carlingford Lough.”