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Huge number of objections to West Clare windfarm

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DOZENS of objections have now been lodged with Clare County Council against the development of a windfarm at Cahermurphy and nearby townlands, close to Kilmihil.

While the application from MCRE Windfarm Limited claimed that there are positive relationships with people in the area, many of the local residents are against the proposal and a large number of strongly worded objections have been lodged with the local authority.

Among them is one from the Cahermurphy Wind Farm Phase II Opposition Group which claims there has been little consultation from the company with locals. “This application has been rushed into the Council with little to no public consultation, during a pandemic. There are many locals who have none or very little knowledge of this proposed industrial development,” it said in a submission to the county council. “As we needed hand signatures to validate this letter and our request, the collected signatures are the result of a limited round trip on October 21, 2020.”

Collecting these signatures, the statement said, has reinforced the group’s belief that there is still a sizeable number of people in the locality with little or no knowledge of the proposed development and who have not had any engagement from MCRE. “Residents with poor broadband also lost valuable time accessing the planning documents as there was a long delay in these being scanned and made available to the public,” they added.

“It was not feasible for many people to go into Ennis to go over the files due to the current Covid crisis, but we were told the deadline could not be extended.”

They called for any decision to be postponed until imminent new guidelines become available. “We understand that the extremely long overdue Revised Wind Energy Development Guidlines are finally going to be published by the end of Quarter 4, 2020, as per the Climate Action Plan and the new Programme for Government.

“We ask that Clare County Council hold off on making any decision on this windfarm application until these guidelines are published. The present guidelines are not fit for purpose and have been put off for many years, at great cost to residents.”

More than 50 people have signed this submission.

A short submission made by Denise McGuane on behalf of the Conserve Kilmaley Group says, “The area is overpopulated with turbines and the project will negatively impact the flora and fuana, surface water bodies and have a direct negative impact on people living in the community.”

A very lengthy submission from Inland Fisheries Ireland raised more than 30 issues, many of which were about the construction phase, including concerns over site drainage and potential run-off into water courses.

A submission from David and Bernadette Eastham cited expert groups’ recommendations of greater distance between turbines and homes, while they criticised the standard of work associated with the previous windfarm development in the area. “We are alarmed by the close proximity of the turbines to our home and the homes of our neighbours.

“We chose to live in a very quiet, peaceful area with attractive rural views and quiet walks. These attractions will disappear with the development of an industrial scale windfarm in the immediate area,” they wrote.

“We have experienced the noise generated by turbines in other areas where they are clearly audible from nearby houses and the overwhelming visual impact of turbines that are not as high as those proposed in this planning application. The distance between the turbines and residents’ homes is, the couple claim, insufficient, citing guidelines from the World Health Organisation which recommends a minimum of 1.5km between industrial turbines and homes. The French Medical Assocation, they state, recommends a minimum of 2km which is a more reasonable distance given the overall height of 170m that is proposed for this development.

Criticising MCRE Windfarm Ltd the couple added, “The road we live on is narrow and poorly maintained. It was damaged even more by numerous heavy lorries that were passing our door many times a day while turbines were constructed further away from us. How much worse will it be if planning is given for ten turbines? They also claim that it will damage their property value, reduce the likelihood of people making their lives in the area and make West Clare less viable.

“Data is available which demonstrates that wherever wind turbines are placed property values in the area decrease,” they state.

“Even the developer during his visit acknowledged that fact when discussing the householders ‘compensation’ on offer to residents who are impacted by this development. This is unfair and unacceptable.

“Recently our road has seen a noticeable increase in new houses and a number of young families moving in. This is a very welcome development as it provides a growing community that will support schools and the local economy. However, there is unlikely to be further interest in building homes here if this development goes ahead,” the couple contend.

The Covid-19 pandemic, they say, has highlighted the attractions of living in a quiet rural area and the possibilities that exist for employment and rural regeneration now that people are being encouraged to work from home. “It is more important to facilitate that by improving broadband and accessibility than allowing developments, like the one proposed that do not provide any long term jobs or support the local economy. On the contrary they will contribute to reducing the viability of rural West Clare,” they conclude.

The submission of Niall Williams and Christine Breen of Kiltumper, Kilmihil, claimed that they have experienced great disruption since a windfarm was developed close to their property, and they urged the Council not to allow another such development. “People live in this landscape and we believe this development, and others like it, will ultimately lead to the depopulation of the region in favour of the wind industry, a situation which the planners will not only have overseen, but stewarded into being.

“We are unaware, in making their decision, how many of the planners live within 500 metres of a wind farm, as we do.”

The couple said in the year in which they have been living next to the erection and commission of two turbines, “the noise pollution is almost constant”.

“When the wind is coming towards us, we cannot open our bedroom window at night without hearing the constant thump, or stand at the kitchen window without seeing the blades spinning,” they claim.

“One year after the developers cut down the trees along the road, bulldozed the stone walls, and left the road surface ragged, no repairs or restoration have been made. These things have human impacts. So-called wind farms destroy habitats, not only for birds.”

Over 70 submissions have been made on the proposal, and Council planners are due to issue a decision by November 12.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.