A special planning meeting of Newry,  Mourne and Down District Council is being held tonight to discuss a proposal for  the construction of a Wind Farm at Gruggandoo townland close to Clonduff. Councilors will hear a report from the Council's Planning Department followed by presentations from ABO Wind (Applicants) and Mourne AONB Wind.

The original Planning Application was considered by council in 2015 and consisted of 12 turbines. Amendments were made to the proposal earlier this year reducing the number of turbines from 12 to 8 but increasing their maximum height from 125 metres to 142.5 metres a size MP Chris Hazzard says is higher that the London Eye.

The current application states the proposal as "Construction of a wind farm comprising 8 no. wind turbines (tip height not exceeding 142.5 metres), and electrical substation and control building, construction of internal access tracks, spoil deposition areas, temporary construction compound, formation of passing bays on Mullaghgarriff Road, delivery route improvements at Rostrevor Road, junction improvements at Rostrevor/Mullaghgarriff Road and all associated ancillary works."

A Wind Turbine (File photograph)

A report from At the meeting Conor Mallon, the council's Director of Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism will recommend that "A response is returned to Dfi indicating Council's opposition to this Planning Application."

Some key issues stated are that the site is within the Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Mournes Special Countryside Area; Potential benefits are acknowledged, ie investment in the local and NI wide economies and the funding of local community groups and organisations but it's considered that these should not be given determining weight when set against the unacceptable adverse impacts arising from a proposal to develop a windfarm of this scale in such a sensitive landscape and it is considered that the proposal is contrary to Policy TSM* Safeguarding of Tourism Assets ... A proposal of this scale has the potential to impact on the distinctive characteristics of the Mournes, therby undermining the ability of the District to attract tourism.

Call for Independent Public Inquiry

Chris Hazzard MP says that the application should be the subject of an independent public inquiry as soon as possible. 

The South Down MP said “This planning application for a wind farm at Grugandoo in the Mourne AONB is both environmentally complex and highly controversial. 

“It not only involves a wide range of views, but will undoubtedly require in-depth scrutiny of all the available information in order to properly assess the far reaching socio-economic and environmental impacts of the proposal. 

“We believe that before any decision is taken by the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, that it is imperative that an independent public inquiry considers the views of all stakeholders, including the local community, and scrutinises the huge amount of complex information provided.

“Ireland needs ambitious, sustained and coordinated action to accelerate the transition away from environmentally devastating fossil fuels and to build our renewable capacity. Sinn Féin believe that we must prioritise investment in the delivery of a wider range of energy sources - such as a much greater emphasis on off-shore wind and other sustainable replacements. 

“However we also believe strongly that our natural environment, our landscapes and seascapes are a precious national asset. That it defines and represents our sense of place, our national identity, resonating both with local residents and visitors alike. Of course wind energy developments are not incompatible with the needs to protect our environment or attract visitors, but extra care should be taken to ensure insensitively sited wind farm developments are not allowed to negatively impact upon our most precious natural landscapes.” 

“With this in mind, local Sinn Féin representatives have proactively engaged with a variety of local community organisations; the applicants ABO Wind; and representatives of those locally who are very much opposed to the scheme. We listened carefully to arguments for and against, and we raised many of our own concerns relating to the impact upon wildlife; the sensitive natural habitat; the unique natural landscape; and the particular geological aspects of the proposed site. 

“Whilst this revised application has possibly lessened the environmental impact of spoiled upland Peat bog and other sensitive habitat associated with the construction footprint, there is no doubt that increasing the size of the remaining eight turbines to 142m greatly exacerbates the impact of this proposed development in many regards. 

“This proposal would not only consist of some of the tallest turbines in Ireland - but would in fact contain some of the highest structures in Ireland. The tallest building in Ireland currently is the Obel building in Belfast, it is 88m tall. Croke Park, which dominates the north Dublin city skyline stands at only 44m tall, these turbines would be more than three times that height. Perhaps the closest structural comparison which people might be familiar with is the London Eye which is 135m in height. 

“It is clear then that the proposed wind farm would feature prominently from the western slopes of the Mournes and from each summit; impacting significantly therefore on the Mourne and Slieve Roosley natural landscape - an area of high scenic quality and protected status. Significantly, the proposed wind farm would also be visible from beyond Carlingford Lough, on the Tain Way in Co Louth, which would impact upon the famed panoramic view of Carlingford Lough. 

 Sinn Féin Group leader on Newry, Mourne & Down Council, Cllr Willie Clarke added “As a designated consultee, the local Council will be asked to take a position on this proposed wind farm on Monday night. Sinn Féin will be proposing that the Council back our call for an independent public inquiry and relay this position to the Department for Infrastructure. 

“If this proposal is unsuccessful, we will have no other option but to oppose this application.” 

The meeting takes place online tonight at 6pm.

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