In the rush to protect the environment we seem willing to diminish planning rules that seek to protect it

News Letter editorial of Friday April 9 2021:

Friday, 9th April 2021, 8:34 am
Updated Friday, 9th April 2021, 12:07 pm
News Letter editorial

The future of energy provision in the world has been changing fast around the world.

Richer countries are pushing renewable energies which are carbon neutral, such as wind and solar and tide and geothermal.

Other advances, such as vastly improved insulation in buildings, will help create a much less polluted world.

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Nuclear power, which is controversial but which does not produce carbon dioxide, ought to be a key part of modern energy sources, is heavily used in nations such as France but rejected in others such as Germany, because it produces waste.

In Northern Ireland there is no prospect of nuclear, and so wind power has become a key aspect of the increase in clean energy. After all, we live on an island that has plenty of wind but not so much sunshine to generate solar power.

But there have been serious problems with the rollout of wind power in Northern Ireland. A recklessly generous funding scheme for new turbines has depleted vast amounts of taxpayer funds, and led to vast turbines all across NI.

This is particularly problematic in the Province, because we have by far the slackest planning system in the UK, which means that homes are dotted randomly across the countryside (a planning policy that has cross-party support at Stormont), and as a result many of these huge turbines are uncomfortably close to properties.

Furthermore, political hostility in Northern Ireland to environmental protections means we have no national parks.

One of the few things that we ought to be able to savour therefore are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). These should have the most rigid planning protections.

But large-scale, unsightly windfarms are being built on or near these AONBs. The latest to get approval is Corlacky Windfarm, which is entirely within the Sperrin AONB. Yet it planners wanted refusal for reasons such as it being “unsympathetic to the special character of the Sperrins AONB” (see link below).

It is worrying that in the rush to protect the environment we are prepared also to damage some of the best of it.

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Alistair Bushe