Councilor Cadogan Enright organized a meeting of farmers from the Down area with the Ulster Farmers Union following a series of planning decisions which he has described as ‘mercurial’.
Cllr Enright said, “Local farmers described situations in the hilly country around Drumsnade where a large wind-farm developer has been approved in principle for 5 wind turbines of 2.5 mega-watts each. But when the large developer withdrew, local farmers had problems getting permission for even 3 turbines less than one tenth that size. Individual applications by farmers are delayed locally for many years, whereas major developments are identified as ‘strategic’ and sail though the planning process at the highest levels.”
“This unequal treatment is unjust and creates a situation where the profits of renewable energy in Northern Ireland will be exported by big money interests, rather than kept in the hands of local people”, continued Cllr Enright.
Farmer and wind energy expert Paddy Flynn of Castlewellan said, “Planning policy seems to be interpreted one way in County Down, and another way across N.I.. This does not help people like myself working to advance renewable energy in the rural economy”.
Ulster Farmers Union representative Elliot Bell was extensively briefed at the meeting on 10 different planning issues, with farmers present to back up their complaints with detailed examples. Elliot confirmed that UFU would be seeking to speak with senior planners about the interpretation of policy in Down.
“One of the biggest issues is that planners are reluctant to meet with farmers planning renewable energy installations in N.I. prior to planning being submitted. This creates a lose-lose situation where expensive planning applications have to be speculatively submitted to get attention of planners. In Scotland or England and Wales it is possible to get an on-site planning application quite rapidly prior to any application being made to ensure compliance with local policies. This avoids time and money being wasted. Planners in Rathkelter House had promised to resolve this situation as far back as May 2010, but have failed to do so”, Concluded Cllr Enright