FAMILIES in the Aghyaran area fear they will be forced out of their homes, if planners persist with an approval for 15 new wind turbines.
Citing an already excessive noise from the 34 turbines currently operational in the Church Hill, Crighshane and Seegronan townlands, one local woman described the sound as “disturbing” and “persistent.”
However, Planning NI has already approved this application from SSE Renewables to install 15 more turbines at Tievenameeta.
Last week Strabane District Council, as a corporate body condemned a new amendment to this application (dated 2009), ultimately refusing to back Planning NI’s approval.
Speaking on behalf of Aghyaran residents this week, local woman Gemma McGlinchey confirmed that families are preparing to take Planning NI to court, if concerns are not taken into account.
“We don’t particularly want a judicial review, something like that would be a massive task, but there has to be some accountability here,” she said.
Mrs McGlinchey pointed to a recent report by a world-renowned expert on sound, acoustic consultant Dick Bowdler who is himself a government advisor on wind turbines. Within his report, ‘Tievenameeta and Nearby Wind Farms: Problems in Controlling the Impact on Residents,’ commissioned by residents Mr Bowdler says the levels of turbine noise in previous assessments has been “consistently underestimated.”
Mr Bowdler, who has been a noise consultant for over 40 years and was one of the original members of the Institute of Acoustics wrote, “The projected turbine noise levels are 3 to 4dB higher than the applicant states when calculated by good practice methods.
“This means that rather than meeting ETSU-R-97 noise limits cumulatively with other wind farms as suggested in the latest assessment, it will not meet the limits on its own, even with the mitigation proposed.”
He added, “Compliance testing of windfarms is complicated even when one wind farm is involved. Where there is more than one, the procedure needs to be very carefully set out. This has not been done.
“Some of the applications have made an assessment of cumulative noise and these have not generally been carried out in accordance with good practice. Some have made incorrect assumptions about the operation of other wind farms.”
Mrs McGlinchey claims that Planning NI took no part of Mr Bowdler’s report into consideration. She affirmed, “You can’t just let something like this go ahead and then worry about the consequences – that’s what happened the last time.”
She added, “We have been fighting this for three years and yes, it’s something that takes over your life.
“We seem to be the collateral damage when these big companies come into the area and try to make their money.”
According to Mrs McGlinchey there are already 34 operational turbines in the Aghyaran area. 21 more have been consented to and there are a further 60 in the planning system.
Under the current proposal one Aghyaran resident would live just 390 metres from the nearest turbine despite guidelines which say the limit is 500 metres.
“We will not be able to stay in our home if these 15 turbines go ahead,” Mrs McGlinchey continued. “That’s why there is such high feeling about this.
“It seems that the planners are not taking this report into account because it talks about serious noise issues. The turbines that are already in operation were passed without any noise constraints being taken into consideration. It’s almost like living near an airstrip the noise is so persistent – it’s a disturbing noise. One person described it to me like a train that never ceases to run by. That’s what it’s like.”
She concluded, “People are making these decisions so flippantly about our area but this is where we live. This has to be analysed at a higher level and on an independent basis.”
When contacted this week in relation to the issue a spokesperson from DOE had this to say.
“The Department acknowledges the corporate view expressed by the council at its meeting on 27 August, and this view will be taken into account before a final decision is made.”