Campus wind turbine development stalled

MEMBERS of Coleraine Borough Council were shocked to learn this week that minimum distance rules for wind farms don’t apply to single, double or even triple installations of turbines in residential areas.

The news was delivered by a DoE planning officer at the council’s December meeting on Tuesday night at which two local residents were permitted to speak to the chamber on behalf of concerned residents.

The University of Ulster, who already operate one turbine at the site, hoped to add another two next year and were recommended for approval by the planning service until 55 objectors made their opposition known. Council has now demanded face to face discussions with planners and have put the project on hold until the January 20th meeting.

Speaking to councillors and the Press last Tuesday evening, Dundooan Road representatives Michael McNeill and Lisa Boyle, revealed families already suffered from noise and strobe-like “shadow flicker” in and around their homes and claimed the proposed two additional turbines did not meet government guidelines which recommend a minimum safe distance of 500m from residential properties.

“There are 50 properties on the Dundooan and Cromore Roads which are within 520m of at least one of the opposed turbines. The proposal should be rejected on these grounds alone,” said Mr. McNeill.

He revealed that many countries recommended a minimum safe distance of 2000m with the World Health Organisation espousing a 3,000 metre rule - an essential buffer between families and the high speed blades which can fail and “throw” fragments hundreds of metres away.

The objectors also pointed to the “unacceptable major impact” that two new turbines would have on the visual landscape of the area.

“This is the wrong place for them, being a lowland area. There are too many people living here and it is simply not suitable for a wind farm,” said Mr. McNeill.

The objectors added: “The University of Ulster has not been helpful in addressing the problems we residents of Dundooan Road are experiencing with regard to the existing turbine. While a meeting was accommodated between ourselves, Councillor David McClarty MLA and university representatives, there was no admission that the problems of noise and shadow flicker [documented on You Tube] even existed.

“A request to investigate what additional measures could be taken to alleviate noise was met with silence. The university has shown itself to be totally indifferent to our problems and we have no confidence that things will be any different if the new turbines go ahead.”

Supporting a call from Councillor Duddy to hold an office meeting with planners, Councillor McClarty described the turbines as “a blight on the lives of people living on the Dundooan Road.

“I think the wrong decision was made the first time around and if these two were allowed it would exacerbate the problem three fold,” he observed.

However, it was a request for information from Alderman Maura Hickey which led to raised eyebrows in the chamber. The senior councillor asked planners to clarify the minimum distance for “this wind farm” as the calculation is based on prop height and propeller length.

Much to councillors’ dismay, the attendant planning officer revealed the university application for an additional two turbines did not constitute a wind farm consequently there were no rules governing minimum safe distance.

The Mayor, Alderman Maurice Bradley, wrapped up the discussion by calling for a vote on the proposed office meeting.

“I am not against wind turbines in principle,” he said “but there’s a big difference between one on the side of a mountain and one in your back garden.”