Wind Farm Planning Application and the Tourist Board  (Tappaghan Mountain)

Oral Answers to Questions — The Environment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of Mrs Joan Carson Mrs Joan Carson UUP 3:45 pm, 7th October 2002

6. asked the Minister of the Environment, in relation to the proposed Tappaghan Mountain wind farm application, why the Northern Ireland Tourist Board was consulted, as it had not previously been consulted on wind farm planning applications.

(AQO 232/02)

Photo of Dermot Nesbitt Dermot Nesbitt UUP

While it is not always the practice to consult the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in relation to wind farms, the Department considered it necessary to do so in County Fermanagh because of the number of wind farm planning applications, the quality of the landscape and the need to protect natural tourism assets.

The proposed wind farm at Tappaghan Mountain is one of three current planning applications for wind farms in County Fermanagh. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is being consulted about each of these proposals in order to obtain information required to arrive at a planning decision.

Photo of Mrs Joan Carson Mrs Joan Carson UUP

I am delighted that consultation is being carried out with the Tourist Board, as Fermanagh depends greatly on tourism. Does the Minister agree that consultation with the Tourist Board should continue in respect of the erection of all wind farms across the Province? Our renowned landscape will be spoiled. Will the Minister undertake to explore and, perhaps, seed-fund other forms of renewable energy, especially from farmyard waste?

Photo of Dermot Nesbitt Dermot Nesbitt UUP

That is another fascinating question about renewable energy. Northern Ireland is a region of the United Kingdom, which is the fourth richest economy in the world, and therefore much energy is needed. The question is how we provide the energy, whether it is renewable energy, or fossil fuel, which adds to carbon dioxide emissions. Those are fundamental questions that need to be asked. Mrs Carson mentioned consultation on wind farms. If a windmill is made of two or more turbines connected to a wind farm, or if a windmill has only one turbine, but is in excess of 15 metres high, an environmental statement must be made requiring consultation. Mrs Carson’s question fundamentally concerned the forms of renewable energy. That is a fascinating question that is easy to ask, but difficult to answer.

Photo of Gerry McHugh Gerry McHugh Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. If there is to be a preponderance of wind farms in areas such as Fermanagh, principally because of the lack of areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) status, and because companies carry out very limited consultation with local people, the Minister will find that, although we are all for green energy, there will be difficulties in the coming years in locating green energy generators in the right places. Lack of AONB status could mean that the tourism value of places such as Fermanagh will be destroyed by the preponderance of wind farms.

Photo of Dermot Nesbitt Dermot Nesbitt UUP

I assure Mr McHugh that the tourism dimension is very important, although it is not within my remit. The tourist industry in Northern Ireland makes up a small proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) compared with Scotland. If we could raise that to the same level as in Scotland, the industry would be much enhanced. This raises the matter of wind farms on the north coast. The wind turbines can be seen on the horizon on the Glens of Antrim as one travels up the M2 to the Antrim coast. With regard to sustainable development, a balance must be found between sustaining the economy and protecting the environment. The protection of the environment is an essential, axiomatic element of tourism.