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Communications masts on Woodcock Hill near Meelick.

Storm brews as zoning of Clare windfarm questioned

MORE than 1,000 residents in Cratloe, Bunratty, Ardnacrusha and Meelick will be forced to live in the shadow of “overpowering wind turbines” up to 1,600 feet above sea level if wind developments proceed on picturesque Clare Hills.

That’s according to Gerry Ryan, who is very concerned over the planning designation of an area stretching from Cratloe on the western slopes of Gallows Hill across to Ardnacrusha in the East, as suitable for “strategic large scale wind turbines.”

For countless generations, Mr Ryan said Clare people have enjoyed the beautiful views of Gallows Hill, Woodcock Hill and Ballycar Hill from Bunratty, Sixmilebridge, Ardnacrusha, Shannon to name but a few areas.

“This beautiful backdrop is now under threat and the views from iconic attractions such as Bunratty Castle, Cratloe Woods, 12 O Clock Hills and countless other areas of Clare will be destroyed forever by the construction of 178 metre high wind turbines.

“A conservative count of the homes either within the designated area, or within one kilometre of the area shows that there are at least 1,060 homes and families who will be directly affected.

“It is unacceptable for Clare County Council to think it appropriate to position such massive and obtrusive wind turbines in a densely populated area.”

Living in Meelick since 1999, Mr Ryan is very concerned a lot of people in the locality are not aware of this wind farm zoning in the County Development Plan.

“Last November, I found out about the wind farm zoning that the council has applied to Woodcock Hill, Gallows Hill and Ballycar Hill by accident.

“I was surprised the council zoned this areas as strategic locations for wind turbines in 2011. Anyone I spoke to in the area has no idea this has actually happened.

“Even with the new plan, the vast majority of people don’t know it is happening. The 2011 plan was renewed again in 2016 and that will run until 2023. These hills are zoned for strategic wind turbine development under the new plan that runs until 2029.

“Any company can come to the council and submit plans to build one of the highest turbines in the planet up to 175 metres high.

A few months ago, Limerick-based Ballycar Green Energy announced it was commencing pre-planning consultation with local communities and stakeholders in relation to the proposed development of a new wind energy development in Meelick.

The Ballycar Green Energy project, a proposed 12-turbine wind farm on a 140-hectare site near Meelick, in South-East Clare will have the capacity to power more than 30,000 homes.

The designated location for the proposed project is located on a 140-hectare site neighbouring the townland of Ballycar, north of Meelick.

According to the company, this site has been designated as a strategic and acceptable in principle area by Clare County Council as part of the Clare County Development Plan 2017 – 2023 due to its strategic regional and national importance and the favourable conditions for wind energy generation.

Mr Ryan said the council was still basing its planning policy on 2006 national wind turbine guidelines when the largest turbines were about 50 metres high, which was supposed to be revised in 2014, but this never happened.

“Various governments have failed to deliver on new guidelines to protect residents, wildlife, birdlife and the visual amenity of the areas affected by these turbines.

“As a result, communities all over Ireland are suffering the effects of wind turbines including
noise, flicker, destruction of habitat, visual amenity and reduction in house prices.

“Council representatives stated during their recent roadshow in Clonlara that they were legally obliged not to change any aspect of their wind turbine documents. When questioned on what law prevented them, they were unable or unwilling to answer. There isn’t a law that would prevent the council from doing this.

“In the meantime, private companies seek to take advantage of the outdated guidelines to drive profit at the expense of local residents, birdlife and wildlife and the entire ecosystem.”

If any wind farm is constructed on Woodcock Hill, he expressed concern about the impact on a breeding pair of Hen Harriers, which are a protected species that thrive best on open bogland or grassland.

These areas contain protected raised bogs Woodcock Hill Bog ANC and other sensitive habitats, which are home to endangered birdlife as listed in the EU “Wild Birds: Threatened bird species in Annex 1”.
He expressed concern Ballycar Green Energy doesn’t show the precise location of where their proposed turbines will be located on its project website.

Responding to queries, the council stated this planning policy matter is part of the statutory Clare County Development Plan (CDP) making process.

“The draft CDP is receiving submissions until March 28th and the Council would welcome public submissions on this and the many other planning policy matters.

“Until Local Authorities receive updated national government guidance on wind it is proposed to carry the existing Clare County Wind Energy Strategy, which is currently incorporated into the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023, goes forward into the new Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029.

“Upon the publication of new National Government Wind Energy Guidelines the existing Wind Energy Strategy will be reviewed and a new Clare County Wind Energy Strategy will be prepared.”

Mr Ryan urged people to view the Wind Strategy in the Clare Draft Development Plan at clarecdp2023-2029.clarecoco.ie/stage2-draft/display/

Individuals can make a submission in writing to Draft Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029, Planning Department, Clare County Council, New Road, Ennis, or by email to: devplan@clarecoco.ie.

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