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Killala windfarm causing a storm

Objectors to the country’s first community-owned windfarm – to be sited near Killala – will this week call on An Bord Pleanála to hold an oral hearing into the proposed development.

They claim the project’s ten turbines will be two-and-a-half times the height of the recently-demolished Asahi tower and eleven times higher than a two-storey house. They also say they are too proximate to nearby houses. When operational, the project would generate 23 mega watts of electricity, or enough energy to electrify 3,000 houses.

It is less than a fortnight since the €25 million venture was given planning permission by Mayo County Council, subject to 21 conditions.

This is despite a recommendation by the Council’s Senior Planner, Mr John McMyler, to refuse permission for the giant turbines on several grounds. He wrote: “The wind-farm is sub-divided by a reasonably busy local road with a settled rural population along this road or on side roads off it. A significant amount of land is located within 500 metres of turbines, which is not in the applicant’s ownership. The area is raised in the greater landscape and so may be visible from a significant distance.”

Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), one of the objectors, Mr James O’Hora, said the community had not been consulted about the project, had been ‘kept in the dark’ and ‘never notified’ about its developments.

“I bought my site seven years ago from one of the promoters and it was never mentioned to me. They say they have already spent €200,000 on research, but why didn’t they discuss their plans with us first?” said Mr O’Hora, who lives about 360 metres from the site.

“My neighbour, Padraic Roche, was forced to reduce the height of his house by 14 inches when he was building it, and yet this can go ahead even though they’re higher than the Asahi tower and 100 feet higher than the ones in Enniscrone,” continued Mr O’Hora.

He also said there seemed to be political pressure from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to push this project forward and argued that the project was not under any auspices of Killala Community Council.

However, Mr John Gilvarry – a Director of Killala Community Windfarm Ltd and one of the eight farmers involved in the project, told The Mayo News that the community council was a shareholder.

“The community council does have a formal role as a shareholder. There are eight farmers involved in this initiative, as well as the council which has been very active in Killala for over 40 years. This project will now provide a lifeline for it,” said Mr Gilvarry.

He added that from the outset the objective of the enterprise was ‘to make the biggest return possible for the local community’.

“We never set out to create division and the whole planning process was totally transparent. But we could not go out and sell this project to the wider community until we got planning permission. I do think an influential factor in granting permission was the proximity to the national grid,” he concluded.

This innovative project began when, in early 2002, Renewable Energy Partnership (REP), which consists of Brí Nua Community Wind Energy Group (Donegal), Mayo Community Wind Energy Group and the Western Development Commission (WDC), began to research the potential for communities in the region to benefit from the establishment of wind energy

By Áine Ryan

The Mayo News

18 December 2007