A decision to withdraw plans for a £30 million wind farm at Slieveard Mountain on the outskirts of Omagh has been hailed as a huge victory by the campaign group set up to oppose the development.
And there was more good news for campaigners, as a refusal of another major proposed wind farm in the Sperrins – between Greencastle and Sixtowns – has been upheld by the Planning Appeals Commission.
West Tyrone Against Wind Turbines say that their four year battle against the proposal for eight turbines at Slieveard has ensured the scenic landscape will now be protected for future generations.
The company Canavan Associates Ltd, based in Derry, acting on behalf of the applicant, Slieveard Wind Farm Ltd, recently wrote to the Planning Appeals Commission announcing its intention to withdraw the proposal due to changes in the ‘subsidy regime’.
Owen McMullan from the campaign group vowed that their support for similar campaigns against wind farms at other local locations would continue.
Mr McMullan added that these included up to 14 wind turbines at nearby Lisnaharney and 36 at Doraville close to Broughderg would go on.
“We have shown that a small community can take on the huge wind industry and win. Our hope now is that other rural areas will soon enjoy the success that we have achieved,” he said.
“I am absolutely elated by this decision which is also a huge victory for common-sense. People thought we were mad to object to these plans four years ago and now look at what has been achieved,” Mr McMullan said.
“The strength of feeling on this issue locally has been made abundantly clear by the fact that over 3,500 letters of objection were submitted.
“What the move by Slieveard Wind Farm Ltd proves is that the wind industry is dependent on subsidies and not the wind. We are paying for those subsidies through high energy prices.
“The decision also to reject a planning appeal in relation to the Mullaghturk area protects a further gateway to the Sperrins. The hope now is that plans for the huge wind farm at Doraville and another at Lisnaharney will also be successfully opposed.
“West Tyrone was described as being at saturation point in terms of the number of turbines being erected. Yet, there are very serious issues about how wind turbines affect health and well-being.”
Mr McMullan said the economic arguments in favour of wind farms had been undermined by the decision to withdraw the planning appeal due to the decision by Canavan Associates Ltd.
“This was a battle which none of us chose, but we needed to protect our families and the landscape and highlight how these wind farms are so dependent on government subsidies,” he added.
“The decision to withdraw the Slieveard application indicates that wind farms are not economically viable without the financial support of the Government.”
In the brief letter to the PAC, Seamus Canavan of Canavan Associates said the appellant, Slieveard Windfarm Ltd, were withdrawing the appeal for the wind farm on Slieveard Mountain in the townlands of Glencordial and Rylagh.
News of the move came as the PAC rejected a planning appeal against the decision to refuse a wind farm at Mullaghturk between Greencastle and Sixtowns.
Both Mr McMullan and another of the objectors, Geoffrey Simpson, thanked all those who had supported the campaign by attending public meetings or submitting letters of objection.