A special meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Planning Committee was called tonight to agree on a response to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision to approve development of a wind-farm near Garvagh, which the Planning Committee had previously declined.
The Committee was given a choice of two responses which were as follows.
- Agree that the Planning Committee notes the Notice of Opinion of the DoE dated 30th October 2015 and has no further comment to make.
- Agree that the Planning Committee request in writing the opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the PAC or other person appointed by the DoE.
Alderman Sam Cole was the first to comment, saying that he was concerned that councillors were first made aware of Minister Durkan’s decision via a BBC News article which contained inaccurate information. He also said he found it strange that the Minister would overturn a planning committee decision and not notify the head planner or committee chair.
Alderman Cole proposed that the committee go for option two, this was seconded by Councillor Aaron Callan.
Cllr Padraig McShane said that he was extremely uncomfortable that the meeting had been called and was “astounded” that nobody had any declared interest. The Ballycastle Councillor claimed that members were not being honest with the public and accused them of simply “playing to the public gallery” .
Alderman John Finlay expressed concern over members panicking when they were informed that the committee’s decision could have been subjected to a judicial review, even though the decision made by council was lawful.
The application was described as a “beaten docket” by Alliance Councillor Barney Fitzpatrick, who said it doesn’t matter what the committee’s decision is as the Environment Minister has the final say.
The proposal to agree on option two was put to a vote, and was passed by a vote of 8 for and two against.
Alderman Alan Robinson proposed that Cllr Aaron Callan and Alderman John Finlay represent the planning committee at any hearing.
Members of the committee voted in favour of this as well.