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East Clare windfarm application open for submissions

COMMUNITIES from Feakle to Killaloe are being urged to make themselves aware of the details of a planning application for a 19-turbine windfarm which have just been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.

Along with reports detailing the potential impact on the environment and on wildlife habitats on the 749 hectare site, the Coillte application outlines the full specification for the Carrownagowan Windfarm, which is earmarked for the northern slopes of Slieve Bernagh.

“I would strongly urge all of the communities of East Clare to make themselves aware of what is proposed,” said Chairperson of the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor Pat Hayes. “People need to be satisfied about the impact this development might have on the quality of life for this generation and generations to come. People need to inform themselves and make their views known.”

Because the project has been designated as ‘strategic infrastructure,’ it has gone directly to the planning appeal’s board. Submissions are being accepted up to February 3.

According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR), more than 11km of new road will be constructed, if a windfarm gets the go-ahead. Coillte has also said that a further 8km of existing roads will be upgraded and widened to facilitate construction of and access to the development.The forestry service has repeated its pledge to construct a new local route for delivery of the turbines, in order to avoid the village of Bodyke. A delivery route for the turbines, which have a blade tip height of 169m, has not yet been decided, as both transit from Galway and Foynes have been deemed to be suitable options.

The application details the process of scaling back the plan from a proposed 31 turbines, to the current blueprint for 19. Replacement forestry will be planted on three off-site locations, in line with Coillte’s policy. This will see close to 11 hectares of forestry being planted at Dangananella West in Cooraclare, as well as on sites in Wicklow and Longford.

At the Carrownagowan site, felling of commercial forestry is proposed for a distance of 86m around turbines and on 5m on either side of the roads. Felling will also take place on a private ash plantation to enable the building of a new roadway to facilitate turbine delivery. Overall, a total of almost 68 hectares will be felled, the application outlines.

A Natura Impact Statement (NIS) finds low risk of negative effects for both the Slieve Bernagh Bog and the Slieve Aughty Mountains.

The grid connection will follow at 25km underground to Ardnacrusha and it is anticipated that at least two permanent jobs will be created locally in the operation phase, in the form of an operator or maintenance personnel.

“There is a lot of detail in the planning documents,” Councillor Hayes noted, “and potentially some confusion about accessing them. As a council, we are getting more and more complaints from members of the public and there is a case that there should be more benefits, in in terms of reduced ESB bills for those living close to the turbines. I’m not against renewable energy and the community fund is a positive aspect, but what I would really urge people is to read the documents and make themselves fully aware of what exactly is proposed.”

The application is available on Carrownagowanplanning.ie.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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