Councillor Mike Jones Interviewed Over Binevenagh Wind Farm

First off, what is your opinion on the Binevenagh wind farm?

I think that this particular windfarm project is a complete ‘no-no’ in every way. The site chosen will destroy a very important landscape area which is a designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and has been since 2006. In the rest of the UK such areas enjoy strict legal protection of their environment and natural heritage and legacy. Unfortunately, NI has never got round to putting on to statute the bill required to enact such legislation, so we have a designation without the necessary protective teeth. The project as submitted to planning was badly drawn up and inaccurate and ignored the enormous damage to the local ecology and wildlife and flora which the building phase would cause. It failed to address the important issues properly. The peat bog would cease to exist and the whole environment would be severely impacted in an area which has recently become ever more popular with visitors and tourists alike.

 Films like Hellboy and TV shows like Game of Thrones have been known to use the North Coast as shooting locations but Jeff Potter, CEO of Windy Fields, said the wind farm won’t affect potential entertainment production because Northern Ireland is not “the new Hollywood.” Any thoughts on this?

The councillors are reflecting the views of their constituents in the area, who fear that the ecological balance of the area will be permanently damaged, resulting in severe flooding on the lower slopes of Binevenagh. I chair the Binevenagh AONB Management Forum and I regularly hear these views expressed by councillors. Aesthetic reasons, yes, one of the finest views in NI will be destroyed on an up to 50 mile radius. The Gliding Club, the oldest of its kind, with a long tradition of also supporting physically challenged people to get into the air, would have to cease its activities due to the proximate dangers the turbines would create. Those who do such sports as para-gliding and micro-lighting in the area would be driven out due to this danger, also.

Windy Fields have argued that construction of the wind farm would boost employability in one of the lowest employed areas in the country. They also say there will be an economic boost due to a museum, gift shop and promoted activities. What are your thoughts on this?

Potter is ill-informed and a non-resident, who cares nothing for NI but the profit the turbines will bring him and who shows a completely callous lack of interest in the damage he plans to do to the local environment and its inhabitants. The film industry is, in fact, becoming more and more important as a source of income for NI in general and for this area, in particular. The number of visitors – from all over the World – taking the Game of Thrones Heritage Trail, for instance, which brings them to the Downhill and Castlerock areas, has shot up over the last two seasons.

And finally, the Binevenagh wind farm would ideally make Northern Ireland a more eco-friendly country, but are there alternatives?

Windy Fields have been trying recently to woo the local people with the promise of all kinds of jam tomorrow. In spite of earlier promises to make binding commitments to the Community these potential goodies are no more than paper-thin promises which, since they’re not legally binding, will be cast aside as soon as the Company has got what it wants. They are so ill-thought out and changing from day-to-day that the eminent mendacity of this deceitful campaign is truly pitiful.

Employment? It’s mostly eyewash. Yes, lots of lorries will transport thousands and thousands of tons of gravel infill and concrete and these drivers will have work, just as the people living along the access routes will be subjected to dreadful traffic noise and congestion on completely unsuitable roads. Some labourers may get short-term work but all the skilled construction workers will be drafted in on short-term contracts, probably recruited from the unemployed oil industry construction workers in Scotland, with most of their pay being sent back there. The Turbines will be fabricated abroad – currently in Holland or Scandinavia – as is the usual practice here, and shipped in to Belfast. No profit to NI economy there.

Any Final Thoughts or Comments?

Windfarms have their place in areas where the landscape is less important and much less likely to be damaged permanently by such constructions. Submerged turbines off the coast, powered by tidal power are now being shown to be much more efficient and effective than wind turbines. The term ‘eco-friendly’ to me implies that you don’t desecrate finest landscapes and pillage the environment in pursuit of some ill-judged conviction that plastering over the countryside everywhere with turbines will solve our on-going energy problems. Turbines don’t help when there’s no wind or, as is often the case here, when there’s too much. They become dangerous, have to be turned off and, as we cannot yet store power to any useful extent, we still need the coal, gas, or nuclear power stations to provide a back-up in any case. What we need are hugely better schemes to insulate buildings and reduce overall power consumption, then we might be getting somewhere.