Alliance councillor calls on council to ‘do right thing’ over Knock turbine.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

THE Green Party has called for an immediate halt to work on erecting a wind turbine on an ancient monument near Rathfriland.

The 40-metre turbine was raised on lands off the Fernhill Road, Katesbridge two weeks ago - days after a council stop notice timed out.

Preparatory groundwork had already started for the 40-metre turbine site prior to council's 11th hour intervention last month. The stop notice prevented any further work taking place to erect the wind turbine.

Campaigners from the Save Knock Iveagh group argue the privatelyowned site has archaeological significance as a Neolithic burial cairn and have cast a shadow on the planning process calling it "flawed". Planning permission was granted in 2013 for the turbine.

Meanwhile, acting chair for the South Down Green Party, Emma Cairns, said an investigation needs to be carried out into how the 150ft wind turbine could have been raised at Knock Iveagh Cairn without a decision from councillors and without any input from the Historic Environment Division (HED).

"We would question why the application was given the go-ahead and has been approved. The Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council planners have allowed the works to proceed even though we understand that councillors have still not yet met together to make any decision about whether to revoke the permission or not," she said.

"Questions need to be answered as why a major development -- a 150-foot wind turbine - was treated as a 'streamlined' application, a process designed for everyday domestic alterations, such as garage conversions.

"Why was the Historic Monuments Division, a statutory consultee whose role is to advise on the protection of historic scheduled monuments in cases such as these, not consulted about the application for the turbine?"

The planning authority's guidance on wind turbine development - Supplementary Planning Guidance: Wind Energy in Northern Ireland's Landscapes - specifically mentions Knock Iveagh as being particularly sensitive to wind turbine development, and yet somehow this application was approved.

"Planners should have noticed that the scheduled monument is visible on the Ordnance Survey maps submitted with the application and realised that there is a plaque at the site itself marking the cairn."

The Green Party activist said that even though this issue has been clearly highlighted in the media, the council has done nothing to halt the construction of the turbine.

"Once it is complete, revocation of the permission will not be possible.

Discontinuance of the permission might be possible, but why is the council allowing the work to continue when the further along the construction gets, the higher any potential compensatory payment to the landowner/developer might be?" Ms Cairns asked.

"Why have HED not intervened to halt or stay the construction of the turbine, even though it has the powers to do so?" Ms Cairns asked.

"It is utterly baffling that this has been allowed to happen and it certainly wo n't give local people much confidence in the planning system that is supposed to protect our landscape from inappropriate development." Meanwhile, the South Down Association of the Alliance party has said they are "entirely opposed" to the development of a wind turbine and mast at Knock Iveagh.

In a statement Councillor Patrick Brown stated that the development has the potential to "severely damage the integrity of this 6,000 year old ancient monument".

"It is my opinion that the erection of either a telecommunications mast, a development which has now thankfully been deemed illegal, or a turbine granted questionable permission by the Department of the Environment (DoE) in 2013 before Planning was developed to local councils, should be opposed vigorously by all local political parties and I will be raising this issue with my colleagues in the Assembly to establish the best way to resolve it."

Councillor Brown added that it is important to point out that whilst he is a supporter of renewable energy, it must be situated in appropriate locations, and developments such as this to serve to undermine public faith in the entire renewable energy sector.

"Currently it is my understanding that it would be entirely within the power of the council to revoke the planning permission, which they inherited upon the devolution of planning powers in 2014. I understand that this may have a financial cost to the council if the applicant decided to pursue the costs of a previously granted permission being revoked, however I would challenge ABC council and its elected representatives to put a financial value on the integrity of an important ancient site like Knock Iveagh.

"The opportunistic way the developer has acted in wasting no time after a previously issued 28-day stop notice expired is very disappointing. One has to question why they have waited since 2013 to take any action - did they know the permission was flawed and thought the longer they waited the less likely it would be challenged?"

Councillor Brown believes that the original planning permission granted by DoE was flawed, given that it did not consult with statutory partners, specifically the Historic Monuments Division.

"I would therefore suggest that the council seeks remuneration for any costs of doing this from the Department on Infrastructure (now responsible for overseeing planning in Local Government), rather than passing the cost directly to ABC council ratepayers.

"It is my opinion that the council suggesting that the public come up with the money for a legal challenge is a complete dereliction of duty, and ultimately it will be the elected councillors on ABC council who have the power to take action.

I hope they will do the right thing and move to protect Knock Iveagh."


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