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Survey reveals concerns over Slieve Bearnagh wind farm plan

CALLS for a public meeting between Coillte and members of the East Clare community are gathering momentum, following a survey of reactions to a wind farm development proposed for the slopes of Slieve Bearnagh.

The survey, which was carried out by a local group called Bodyke Voice on Wind Farm, found that a large percentage of a sample of responses favoured a public meeting.

Susan McMahon of the Cobbler’s Rest, a member of the group, said that 120 responses in total had been submitted to the survey. “Because we are a voluntary group and can’t afford to subscribe to a survey, we could only look at 40 of the responses submitted,” she explained. “Of those, 92% favoured a public meeting with Coillte. I’d estimate that around 60% of the responses we could see were not in favour of the project.”

Ms McMahon herself said that she did not have an agenda with regard to the proposed wind farm, but wanted people locally to have as much information as possible. “I love Slieve Bearnagh to bits,” she said. “I look out every day on that mountain. I know in my heart this project will go ahead, but I think it’s essential that everyone understands the effect the construction work will have as well as the long-term impact.”

Ms McMahon has now gone back to Coillte with the findings of the survey and even offered her own premises and garden as a possible venue for a socially-distanced meeting. “Coillte have cited their concerns about any large gatherings with respect to Covid-19 and those are very valid,” she said. “If we can’t have the meeting, then Coillte should consider postponing the application until after that has taken place.”

Andy Fox, Community Engagement Manager with Coillte has undertaken to look at the possibility of ‘clinics’ whereby small numbers of people would have the opportunity to meet company representatives and put questions about the project to them.

Coillte has defended its track record on consultation with the community and has met members of the Killaloe Municipal District, as well as creating an online tour of the project and circulating a brochure by post.

Plans are to be lodged in mid-September, directly to An Bord Pleanála. Coillte had intended to submit them earlier this year, but put the delays down to the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. The forestry service is now finalising the application for 19 turbines on a 750 hectare site, which is around a-mile-and-a-half from Bodyke, on the slopes of the Slieve Bearnagh.

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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