Council turns down solar farm

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Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has turned down a plan for a solar farm in the Muckamore area.

Several councillors spoke out against the plan by Lightsource at last week’s planning committee meeting, despite planning officers recommending the application for approval.

Cllrs. Matthew Magill, Thomas Burns and Paul Michael spoke against the application for the Ballysculty Road area claiming that a solar farm would have a detrimental impact on residential and visual amenity.

Cllr. Burns described solar farms as “industrialisation in the countryside”, while Cllr. Michael claimed that there had been a lack of consultation with local residents - a claim later rejected by Lightsource’s Richard Jenkins, who was in attendance at the meeting.

Objectors Rev. Mark Reid and Raymond Andrews also spoke against the application, arguing that the site was inappropriate and claiming that there hadn’t been proper and meaningful consulatation with local community.

Mr Andrews also warned of that house prices in the area would drop if the plan was approved. He described solar farms as “a modern intrusion into the rural landscape” and said it would have an “unacceptable adverse impact” on the local area.

Speaking on behalf of Lightsource, Mr Jenkins gave details of the positive benefits of the plan - enough power (6.45MW) for 1,600 homes, inward investment, plus plans to graze sheep on the site.

He claimed the visual impact would be “minimal” and said the company had liaised closely with local residents throughout the process.

Cllr. Thomas Hogg proposed members go against the recommendation and refuse planning permission as it is contrary to PPS18 and would have “an unacceptable impact on the visual amenity and landscape character of the area.”

His proposal was seconded by Alderman John Smyth and approved; Cllrs. Billy Webb and Tom Campbell voted against with Henry Cushinan abstaining.