FOR the third time, wind farm developer Gaeltech Energy Developments is planning to erect turbines in the Spink/Ballinakill area of the county.
On the first occasion in October 2013, plans were drawn up to erect eight wind turbines at the company’s Pinewoods Wind Farm project in the townland areas of Knockardagur, Boleybawn, Ironmills, Graiguenahown and Garrintaggart. This application stalled when the council rejected it because the company had not carried out a Natural Impact Statement (NIS) detailing the natural habitats, wild flora and fauna in the planned area. At that stage, 151 submissions or objections to the development had been lodged with the council’s planning office.
The company then resubmitted its plans with an NIS in November of that year. But the company withdrew its plans altogether the following month.
The company has now engaged a consultancy firm, IWCM, which has recently been in contact with public representatives about seeking planning permission to erect 11 wind turbines in the same area of the county. In a letter to councillors, IWCM says that as part of the site and environmental impact assessment process, it will endeavour “to engage all stakeholders in the project as an early stage”.
While the plans state that the total height of the turbines will not exceed 136.5m from ground to tip. It also informs councillors that “the development may be subject to change as the project progresses”.
But news of the invitation to early discussion with councillors leaked out and residents from the affected areas are incensed that they have not been contacted or consulted about the revised plans.
Spokesperson for the Concerned Residents of Spink group John Brophy said: “We were shocked and disappointed to see the letter which has recently been sent out to our local councillor. It is from the very same company who tried to sneak in planning permission previously for a wind farm in the same location late in 2013 without informing everyone in the area of their plans. They eventually withdrew their application when they clearly saw from the more than 150 local submissions to Laois and Kilkenny county councils that no-one wanted the industrial wind farm.
“Many local people in Laois were not aware of their application until after the submission date and it seems no-one just over the border in Kilkenny had been informed.
“They now have the cheek to write to politicians, noting that they will endeavour to engage all stakeholders at an early stage in their project. The first people they should have engaged with are the local people, who will have their lives and their community torn apart by this unwanted and unnecessary industrial wind farm. To add insult to injury, they are now suggesting 11 of these monsters instead of the previous eight they applied for. They are thinking about lowering them slightly. The diameter of the blades will still be 103m (338 feet), or the length of a full-size soccer pitch.
“The most unbelievable comment in their letter is that ‘assessments to date indicate that this would be a very positive development for the area’. Where did they pull those assessments out of? The only real assessments we have seen are those of the 150 local people, who found out just in time about the last application before it was sneaked through, and we are unaware of any of their submissions indicating anything positive about this monstrous development.
“The most worrying aspect of this application possibly being resubmitted is that our current government seem set on subsidising and pushing these monstrosities, even if residents and our local authorities do not want them. An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has clearly been advised on this, as is clear from recent cases. We hope the small handful of landowners involved can sleep well each night, while the rest of the local community begs and borrows to fight these companies with massive resources, with the government and ABP on their side.”
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Pádraig Fleming was equally critical of the company’s plans for its developments in the Spink/Ballinakill area. He said that he would support the residents in their objections, as he had done with the previous two attempts by the company to erect the turbines in their areas.
“The same issues will still be there as were there before for the residents, such as health issues associated with wind turbines, the flicker effect of them and the set-back distance,” said cllr Fleming.