The recommendation for Northern Ireland to revamp its whole approach to wind farms is “long overdue”, according to campaigners.
They were reacting to a major report by Stormont’s environment committee this week, which called for a tightening up of planning rules around such developments.
Among its findings was that west Tyrone was already “saturated” with turbines, and that planners should draw up clear guidelines about when each area has enough of them.
The report was generally welcomed by campaigners – but they stressed it is now up to the department to act on it.
Guy Glencross, 51 and based near Killdress, said of the proposals: “I’d say that it’s positive – if they are acted on. But these things sound good at the time, and gradually get filtered and shoved into the long grass.”
He was particularly keen that they must act on the report’s findings about noise.
He said noise standards currently being used had been drawn up in 1997 when the biggest commercially available turbine was 750 kilowatts – today’s can be as large as 3,000 kilowatts.
The many recommendations in the report include that research and monitoring of noise levels be carried out; that developers engage better with communities in which turbines are to be built; that planners should state definitively how far they should be from homes; and that a clear limit should be set for how many there should be in a particular region.
Chairman of the group Windwatch, Ballyclare-based 62-year-old Dr Daniel Kane, said the report was definitely “a step forward”.
However, both he and Mr Glencross used the same expression to describe its timing: “long overdue”.
When the report was being delivered to the Assembly on Tuesday, reference was made to the collapse of a massive turbine at Screggagh wind farm between Fintona and Fivemiletown, with Lord Morrow likening the aftermath of the disaster to the scene of an air crash.
Owen McMullan, chairman of West Tyrone Against Wind Turbines, said it had been “a massive game changer”, and had thrust their safety concerns about turbines to much greater prominence.
Speaking of the report, he said: “We are glad that our concerns were listened to and acted upon, in getting this inquiry into wind energy launched in the first place and for that, we are very grateful.
“The question now is, how long will it take to get these recommendations implemented?”
The Department of the Environment told the News Letter: “The department is committed to reviewing planning policy on renewable energy and as part of this will consider issues such as separation distances.
“Any changes will require further research and public consultation.”