A LEADING Irish mountaineer has warned that plans to build the country’s biggest ever wind farm near Greencastle would “completely destroy the spectacular skylines” of the Sperrin mountains.
The stark assessment from Helen Lawless, Access and Conservation officer with Mountaineering Ireland, came on the opening day of a public inquiry into the proposal by SSE Renewables to construct 33 turbines at a cost of £150 million at Doraville.
It came as West Tyrone MLA, Declan McAleer and Dr Chris Bloomer planning manager with Mid-Ulster Council also expressed concern that the scheme had the potential to undermine plans to develop the Sperrins as a tourist amenity.
Mr McAleer said that the turbines would be clearly visible from the Gortin Glens, as well as nearby Mullaghcairn and other elevated sites within the central Sperrins region and would undermine plans for those areas.
Speaking yesterday, on the opening day of the inquiry by the Planning Appeals Commission, Ms Lawless said thousands of walkers would be impacted if the wind farm is given the greenlight.
“This wind farm is being built on top of an absolutely spectacular skyline that will be viewed from all the centrepiece locations used by hill walkers in the Sperrins,” she said.
“If this application proceeds, then their experience and the views of the Sperrin mountains will be completely destroyed by a very large wind farm that will totally dominate this region.”
During a day in which objectors made a number of emotive contributions, submissions were also made by representatives from the Department for Infrastructure and the applicant SSE.
Sean Clarke, the chairman of Broughderg Area Development Association, said they were in attendance at the inquiry on behalf of the residents of the area, whose descendants had “protected and respected the Sperrins for generations.”
“We do not and will not take kindly to people from other parts making flippant statements about what can be and cannot be done in these mountains,” he added.
“The people of Broughderg are defending their right to look after the landscape in which we live. There are characters from God knows where submitting applications that effect the whole local community.
“They must realise that we would not take it upon ourselves to impose something on their front doors, wherever they are.”
Mr Clarke later hit out at what was perceived by Broughderg Area Development Association as ‘cross-table negotiations’ taking place at the inquiry without consultation with them.
However, the commissioner, Julie De Courcey, said, while she acknowledged the emotive contributions and passions associated within the community, her recommendations would be made without prejudice.