Slaghtmanus slams solar plan

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Over 70 Slaghtmanus residents have formed the Monnaboy Group and submitted a flurry of objections to a Gaelectric proposal to build a solar farm capable of powering up to 1,175 homes on a 37 acre site on the hillsides above Londonderry.

The group is calling for a moratorium on all such solar farms saying Northern Ireland is unsuitable due to its cloudiness and its northerly position.

Over one hundred objections have been lodged with the planners, dozens of which were submitted last month.

The old Department of the Environment, meanwhile, has also warned planners to be careful of a Stone Age tomb on the development site, which is on the Monnaboy Road in appropriately named Slaghtmanus (Manus’ grave).

But Gaelectric says the farm is being progressed following extensive community consultation and concerns are being addressed.

“Gaelectric has submitted what we believe to be a robust planning application for the Monnaboy solar energy project following an extensive process of consultation with the local community and other stakeholders. As the project is currently being considered by the planning authorities we do not believe it is appropriate to make any further comment at this time,” a spokesperson stated.

Outlining the objections, the new residents group stated: “At a recent meeting of the Monnaboy Group - a community group representing the interests of around 70 people from the Monnaboy Road and surrounding area who strongly object to the unnecessary industrialisation of the countryside - a number of common, important points of objection were discussed by members in relation to this development.

“In the first instance, I wish to request a moratorium on the grounds of lack of planning policy: Northern Ireland was never considered a viable option for large scale solar installations due to its latitude and cloud cover.

“Building Research Establishment (BRE) research and the solar industry itself have previously decreed that latitudes above Birmingham were not viable for large scale solar energy production.

“Therefore, planning legislation specifically governing renewable energy applications, namely PPS18, was written in consideration of wind farms and only small scale solar installations, namely those in buildings.

“There is therefore no legislation in place to manage the integration of large scale solar installations into the fabric of Northern Ireland.”

The local objectors also complain that the new solar farm will be a blight on the landscape around Loughermore Forest.