CONCERNS are being voiced in Bodyke about the nature of the consultation process surrounding a multimillion Euro wind farm proposed for the slopes of Slieve Bernagh in East Clare.
In recent weeks, a Facebook page, called ‘Bodyke Voice on Wind Farm’ has been set up by people in the community to facilitate discussion. One of those raising awareness of the project, Susan McMahon of the Cobbler’s Rest, has used the page to publish responses from the developer, Coillte, to a series of detailed questions, some of which focus on a perceived lack of consultation with the wider community.
“I have no agenda on this,” Ms McMahon told The Champion. “I’m not trying to rally the forces or influence people one way or another on this project. I’m not against green energy, I’m in favour of it, but, I do feel we have been brushed aside in terms of consultation.”
The publican outlined how she had learned, by word of mouth, of a meeting open to community group representatives. “It seemed to me that select people had been invited,” she said. “I belong to a community group and when I found out about it, I went along. To me, it seemed the promise of funding was a carrot being dangled in front of people.”
In response to an email from Ms McMahon, Coillte outlined its community consultation to-date, saying its normal approach would be to hold an opening evening, but that in light of Covid-19, an online version had been developed on its website, carrownagowanwindfarm.ie. “Up to now, we have focused initially on the 2km zone and in the last few months have widened this out to 5km and held eight meetings with town reps from the four neighbouring towns (Ogonnelloe, Tuamgraney, Bodyke and Broadford).” The email from Coillte Community Engagement Manager Andy Fox added, “we have conducted a hugely in-depth engagement programme over 26 months and will continue in this vein”.
Ms Mahon said she had yet to make up her mind as to whether or not she would object to the development and that it was up to others to do the same. “I understand that people may be enticed by financial opportunities,” she said. “That is a matter for themselves. I thought at first that this was something we were going to have to live with, but when I look out my window and see the beautiful view, I’m not so sure. I don’t want to be a NIMBY, but I don’t want people to be caught unawares. People need to be informed about what’s happening.”
A brochure available on the website for Carrownagowan Wind Farm outlines how a community benefit fund could potentially deliver up to €10 million locally. It also predicts the creation of 100 jobs during the construction phase, as well of a potential rates contribution to Clare County Council of between €638,000 and €1.3 million.
Meanwhile, Councillor Pat Hayes has confirmed that Coillte has agreed to a request he made at the May meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District for a briefing, for members, on the wind farm project. Last week an online virtual tour went live on the project website. The plans, which are expected to be lodged in July, will to directly to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.