Views of the proposed windfarm from various vantage points in Carnlough.
The Department for Infrastructure has today issued a Notice of Opinion to refuse planning permission for the Unshinagh Wind Farm.
The Regionally Significant planning application, which is located within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), was for a proposed windfarm comprising 14 (three-bladed) horizontal axis wind turbines.
The proposed turbines would reach to a maximum height of 180 metres to tip height, with the application also including associated external electricity transformers, underground cabling, newly created site entrance, access tracks, turning heads, crane hardstandings, control building and substation compound, battery energy storage containers, tree felling, off site areas of widening to the public road and all ancillary works.
The proposed site for the Unshinagh Wind Farm is four kilometres west of Carnlough in the townlands of Drumourne Unshinagh Mountain.
The project has been proposed by Larne-based company Renewable Energy Systems (RES) based at Millbrook, the same company that is behind a proposal for Ballygilbert Wind Farm outside Ballygally.
Commenting in 2022, RES says that Unshinagh would have the capacity to deliver one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation for approximately 70,000 homes.
The company added,“not only could Unshinagh benefit the local community with a vital economic boost, but it will also create skilled, sustainable jobs and help to drive a cleaner and more resilient economy”, involving a capital expenditure of £61m.
It also has noted that of this sum, £24.7m will be realised within the Northern Ireland economy.
But the proposal has faced stiff opposition, both from members of the local community and from across County Antrim. Concerns were voiced on the impact of the wind farm to the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
One member of the community stated:
"I’m concerned that in the race to reduce fossil fuels we are missing the point that we need to use less energy not continue at the current rate. Some of us use more than we really need, and as usual, the landscape, wildlife and ecosystems pay the price."
A spokesperson for RES previously said:
“Due to the amount of clean, low cost electricity a project like Unshinagh Wind Farm could generate, the planning application has been submitted to the Department for Infrastructure. However, Mid & East Antrim Council will be formally consulted on the proposal as part of the planning process.
“Our projects provide a range of significant economic, environmental and social benefits. We also firmly believe that benefits locally should be shaped by the community, based on feedback on local priorities. We therefore continue to welcome any thoughts and ideas for local benefits that can be delivered alongside Unshinagh Wind Farm.”
Confirming the decision of the Department for Infrastructure, a spokesperson said today (Wednesday 10th January):
"In reaching the decision, the Permanent Secretary of the Department has given full and careful consideration to all material planning considerations.
"Due cognisance was given to the contribution that renewable energy can make to both the economy and tackling climate change; however in this case the significant harm that would be caused to the landscape of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the ecological impacts on protected species within the Antrim Hills Special Protection Area, along with the archaeological, cultural and tourism assets in the locality outweighed the economic and environmental benefits.
"The Permanent Secretary made the decision under powers laid out in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2022.
"Notice of Opinion to refuse will now issue to the applicant and Mid and East Antrim Council who may seek a Hearing before the Planning Appeals Commission, within 42 days of the date of the Notice of Opinion."
Where a hearing is held the PAC prepares an independent report and, following consideration of the report a final decision can be made by the Department.