Lights out for solar farm plan

A solar farm. (archive picture)
A solar farm. (archive picture)

Revised plans for a solar farm at a greenfield site near Mossley have been rejected by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Planning Committee.

The application - brought forward by Dublin-based solar energy firm Power Capital - would have involved the installation of a large number of 2.5m high, ground-monuted solar panels and associated equipment on privately-owned farmland between Doagh Road and Cullyburn Road, close to Mossley Orange Hall.

But planners felt the scheme would have an adverse impact on the visual amenity and character of the surrounding landscape, which is designated as an Area of High Scenic Value.

An initial application lodged in March was subsequently amended after local residents cited a number of concerns, including potential devaluation of nearby properties and disruption caused by heavy traffic.

The revised scheme - which saw the proposed site area reduced by 30 per cent from 10.35ha to 7ha - was brought before Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s Planning Committee at Mossley Mill on Monday night.

Case officer Barry Diamond told elected members that several residents who had objected to the original application were now on board with the reduced scheme.

He added: “We received a templated letter from six people noting that the site area has been reduced and they now wished to support the project.

“About four letters of objection have been withdrawn, but some still exist.”

Director of Power Capital, Justin Brown said the revised application had been scaled back to take into account concerns over visual impact on the area.

He commented: “The advantage of this site is the close proximity to the grid.

“It would also use local contractors during the installation and for the maintenance contracts thereafter.”

Also making a case for the project was the applicant’s agent David Donaldson, who said: “After considerations of the concerns raised by local people, the applicant reduced the scheme by 30 per cent.

“The proposed site is now 100m away from the two nearest houses. The result is that the two nearest neighbours have withdrawn their objections and now support it.

“This is an example of an application where concerns have been listened to and significant alterations have been made.”

Speaking out against the project, South Antrim MLA Adrian Watson said that while he welcomed the reduction in the proposed site area, he felt the concerns raised by the remaining objectors were “still valid”.

Councillor Stephen Ross proposed that members accept the planning officer’s recommendation to refuse the application, and this was carried with nine votes in favour and one against.