Wind farm project could boost economy

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Construction of a windfarm within Binevenagh AONB, near Limavady, could bring a boost to the area in jobs and much needed investment, it is claimed.

ARC NI 1 Ltd has submitted a planning application for 21 wind turbines of 3.3 MW output each on Windy Hill Road near Limavady.

It says it could produce electricity each year to meet the needs of approximately 37,500 homes and could reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 68,914 tonnes each. While the construction phase alone could deliver £11.8m in wages, the firm says it will ensure financial benefits of the £70m project will filter into the local economy.

ARC NI general manager Gavin Forkan said: “An investment of this scale would provide a much needed boost for the local construction sector as well as the Limavady, Coleraine and greater north coast area which has been badly hit by the economic downturn.”

The plans - for 21 turbines each with a maximum height of 125m - has prompted calls for a thorough examination by environmental regulators.

Masts will range over four kilometres of AONB overlooking the coast from Burren More above Downhill in the north to Altikeeragh in the south. Planners have requested a full environmental evaluation of the development because of its “scale” and “sensitive location”.

The firm says it has been “working closely with the families of local landowners involved and are greatly encouraged by their support and commitment to this project”.

A socio-economic report undertaken for the project found the proposed wind farm would help stimulate the local economy.

Outlining the key findings of the report, Neil McCullough of Oxford Economics said: “It is estimated that the construction phase alone could deliver approximately £11.8 million in wages and approximately 540 job years of direct, indirect and induced employment.

“The ensuing operation of the development could create or sustain jobs and the project would also generate significant land and property rates for the local Council and Government and reduce the cost of unemployment in the area.”

A Facebook campaign ‘Wind Farm on Binevenagh Mountain? - No Thanks’ is growing.

One message posted on the page from a local resident states: “I am totally heartbroken about this. Such an untouched area. If the government is trying hard to encourage tourism why are they not ensuring our strongest asset, our environment, is protected?’”