Posted on Wednesday, August 02 @ 22:10:10 CDT By the editors
Papers Today Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan has been strongly criticised by a group of farmers in west Cork for taking sides with a Bantry-based businessman who is seeking to develop a wind farm in the area. In a letter dated March 29th last to the council’s planners, Ms Coughlan said she wished to “make representations on behalf of Mr Daniel J (Bob) Murnane, Ballybane Windfarms Ltd, Lanadane, Bantry, Co Cork, in relation to difficulties in commencing his project”.
.The brief letter, sent on Department of Agriculture headed notepaper, said she would be “most grateful if you could examine this case and let me know the up to date position”. It gave the planners her kind regards and was signed “Mary” above her name and ministerial title.
The Bantry Concerned Action Group, which has been blocking the erection of a 38kilovolt power line to serve the proposed wind farm, said it was “astonished” to find the letter from Ms Coughlan in the planning file on an application to extend the proposed wind farm.
“We’ve been sold down the river by our Minister for Agriculture,” said Joe Burke, the group’s chairman. “She is supposed to be standing up for farmers in Ireland and here we find her making representations on behalf of businessmen.”
ESB Networks has warned it would seek â‚¬15,000 a day in compensation from obstructionist farmers in the area and that it may seek to have this recovered from farm payments. “The fact that the Minister for Agriculture is on their side has sent shivers down our spines,” said action group spokesman Quentin Gargan.
“Farmers throughout the country are demanding that power lines be put underground for valid health and safety reasons, and the Minister should either support them in their quest or have the decency to stay out of the debate.”
More than 300 farmers from as far away as Donegal and Wexford took part in a rally in Bantry last Friday week in support of the 20 local farmers who have been blocking ESB Networks from erecting pylons to support the 38kv power line over a distance of 14km (9 miles).
The ESB sought a further set of injunctions against five local farmers, but when the case came before the High Court last Friday Mr Justice Frank Clarke refused to grant orders against two of them – John Keane and Mary Keane – after finding they were not posing an obstruction.
Referring to the remaining three, the judge said there were planning issues to be dealt with before he could grant injunctions against them and he gave the action group until today to issue proceedings regarding these issues. The group was last night considering its options.
An affidavit in earlier proceedings on behalf of Ballybane Windfarms Ltd referred to an agreement it made with four landowners in Colomane to bury the power line across their lands – even though the terms of the planning permission specify that it was to be laid overground.
The action group said Friday’s court ruling did not deal with any substantive issue, including the ESB’s “extraordinary powers”, and obligation placed on it by the Commission for Electricity Regulation (CER) to provide a grid connection at “least cost” to wind farm developers, which inevitably means going overground.
The group points out that Ireland is unique in Europe in having only 1.3 per cent of its power lines underground. According to an EU survey in 2003, the Netherlands had 100 per cent of such lines buried, Belgium 85 per cent, Britain 81 per cent, Germany 60 per cent and Denmark 59 per cent.
A spokesman for the Minister for Agriculture said that representations had originally been made to her predecessor, Joe Walsh, who was a TD for the area, which is part of the Cork South West constituency.
She had passed similar representations on to Cork County Council “in the normal way”.
Â© The Irish Times
2. Ill wind blows for turbines as hundreds join protest
DON QUIXOTE is famous for tilting at windmills, but residents in some of Ireland’s premier beauty spots are hoping to make more impact as they battle against the construction of 400ft wind turbines they claim are destroying the countryside.
A group of 450 people from 11 counties met in Cashel last week to establish a national committee to campaign against wind farms, driven to action by claims that they create low- frequency noise, destroy natural habitats and interfere with television reception. A second meeting at Ahenny drew 550.
“Our right to object through the planning process has been eroded by new guidelines allowing wind farms to be fast-tracked by local councils, even in special areas of conservation,” said Peter Crossan, a spokesman for a new anti-wind farm committee.
Groups from Cavan, Cork, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford have joined forces and plan to run anti-wind farm candidates in Cork, as well as Tipperary North and South, in next year’s general election.
Despite being touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional energy, the anti-wind farm lobby disputes the efficacy of turbines. “Wind is unpredictable and turbines only produce 20% of their capacity,” said Crossan. “We’re in favour of green solutions, but wind energy is not the answer.”
The protesters claim that wave and biomass energy are more efficient and that wind- farm pioneers such as Denmark are now scaling down their turbine construction. “Wind-farm operators are using the spectre of nuclear fuel to bully us into accepting an unreliable, inefficient energy source,” Crossan said.
The only research into the public attitudes towards wind farms was a survey published by Sustainable Energy Ireland in December 2003, shortly after the “bogalanche” at Derrybrien, Co Galway, which was found to have been caused by the siting of a wind farm on a peat bog.
While 80% of people were in favour of increased wind farm construction, those living adjacent to the sites had other concerns. Some 12% of those close to wind farms believed they devalued their property while 18% said they damaged the scenic beauty in their area.
The survey also found that only 55% of people knew that planning permission for a wind farm had been sought in their area prior to construction.
The protest group’s claims cut no ice with the Irish Wind Energy Association, which argues that there is no medium-term alternative to wind energy. “Wave and biomass technologies simply aren’t ready to implement yet,” said Paddy Teahon, a spokesman for the association. “Wind reduces CO2 emissions, guarantees security of supply and the technology is improving all the time. Turbines may be getting bigger but they’re also getting quieter and more efficient. By 2020, they will be producing 35% of our energy needs.”
There are now almost 40 wind farms around the country with dozens more coming before local authority planners for decision every week. The new Kilgarvan TV Action Committee in Kerry was formed to protest at the loss of television reception in the area following the construction of a wind farm.
“When the rest of Munster was glued to the Heineken Cup, we were watching a snowy screen,” said Tom Randles, a spokesman for the committee. “We have now decided not to pay our television licences until the situation is resolved.”
RTE believes the polluter should pay. “If wind farm operators are causing a problem with TV reception, then they will have to deal with it,” said Mick Kehoe, an executive director with RTE. “Construction of wind farms is totally outside RTE’s control.”
Â© Sunday Times]
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