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Planning approval for Collone wind turbine despite letters of objection

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An application to replace a wind turbine in Collone has been approved by the planning committee on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council despite 10 letters of objection.

The approval will see a wind turbine at lands 165m south east of 20 Seagahan Road replaced by a turbine with a 50m tower and a 54m rotor diameter.

The application, lodged by agent CD Consulting on behalf of applicant Maurice Hill, appeared before the committee on Wednesday, July 5 where members were advised it had generated 10 letters of objection from seven separate addresses.

Among the objections are concerns that the smaller turbine on site already adversely impacts nearby properties with noise and shadow flicker and concerns that a larger turbine will have a severe visual impact on the landscape.

Despite these concerns, council’s planning officers feel the proposal “accords with the policies of the strategic planning policy statement and all other relevant planning policies” and have recommended it is approved.

However, this recommendation is dependent on a section 76 legal agreement being signed between council and the applicant to ensure that a second wind turbine, permitted under extant approval, is not built on site.

Speaking against the application at the meeting, George Clarke claimed the separation distance between the turbine and other properties, as set out in policy, had not been adhered to in this case.

“The case officer says the separation distance is not applicable to this case because it is a single turbine,” said Mr Clarke.

“However, if one reads the relevant policy, PPS18, and the various guidelines connected with it, it is clear that if one takes a balanced view across the entire policy one will find that the terms ‘wind farm’, ‘wind turbine’ and ‘wind energy development’ are largely interchangeable.”

CD Consulting’s Conor Foy said the applicant had a fallback position that would permit two turbines to be built on site, one of which is currently operational.

“The application was assessed and what we have here is an existing turbine that in reality has very few conditions and what we are going to get is a turbine with more conditions and more protection for local people. If there is an issue the council will have recourse,” he said.

“The turbine being proposed is a brand new machine and will increase the efficiency of the site and generally speaking, in terms of renewable energy, it is what we need to be doing.”

Alderman Gareth Wilson asked if this application was being recommended for approval as it was a case of bettering what was already there.

A council officer advised that while the fallback position was a factor to be considered, the application was assessed on its own merits.

“We have looked at the application on its own merits and have asked for a number of reports and, on the basis of the information provided, we are satisfied it complies with policy in its own right,” said the planning officer.

“We also have to take into account there is a fallback position that could see two turbines on this land. We are of the view it complies with PPS18 in its own right and that is the reason we are recommending approval.”

Councillor Peter Lavery asked if the application was approved could the applicant still build a second turbine on site and was advised by the planning officer that without a section 76 agreement the applicant “could technically go and erect the second turbine”.

Alderman Wilson asked what conditions are imposed on the present turbine and the second turbine that could be built under extant planning permission.

“There are only two conditions on the extant approval,” said a planning officer.

“There are no conditions in relation to noise or shadow flicker and if the noise of the second turbine were to cause a problem we couldn’t do anything as there is no condition with regards to noise or flicker or any of those conditions we are recommending, including in this application.”

Councillor Lavery described the situation facing the committee as an “interesting one”, noting the objectors would not be happy but the choice for the committee was between approving this application or watching two turbines be erected on the site.

“If we refuse you could end up with two turbines on site with less opportunity for enforcement or we approve which ultimately averts the previous course of action and provides greater reassurance for enforcement,” he said.

“I guess it may not be welcomed by the objectors if they don’t want any turbines but we are facing a choice between these two decisions and to be honest, I am tempted to go with the approval provided there are certainties around enforcement and the potential of any second turbine on the site.”

Alderman Wilson said he was “in tune” with Councillor Lavery and told the chamber the application represented an opportunity for “betterment”.

“Approving this application would give us an element of control with the conditions attached and that is very important and is very much in my mind,” he added.

Councillor Ian Wilson proposed the officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission was approved, provided the section 76 legal agreement was completed, and this proposal was seconded by Councillor Scott Armstrong before the chamber voiced its approval for the proposal.

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