“The more you look at this, the more questions there are and until they are answered you have to say stall the digger,” were the words of Fearghal McHugh, Chairperson of the newly formed Wind Turbine Action Group South Roscommon as he urged local people to support their opposition of plans for the €80m Seven Hills Wind Farm, close to Dysart, at a public meeting attended by several hundred people in the village on Monday last.
“This is your community, your area and this has been landed on your doorstep,” Mr McHugh remarked, speaking on behalf of the 20-strong committee to the large crowd gathered in Dysart Community Centre, which included people from all over South Roscommon along with a number of local councillors and public representatives. “It’s for ye, about ye and in your back yard,” he continued, emphasising the fact that local people have just two weeks to submit objections to Roscommon County Council before it is taken out of their hands.
November 15 is the last day for submissions prior to a decision from the council on the 16 wind turbines planned by Galetech Energy Ltd for the townlands of Turrock, Cronin, Mullaghhardagh, Gortaphuill, Tullyneeny and Glenrevagh, within miles of Dysart. The company behind the renewable energy plans, estimate up to 60 jobs could be created during the construction phase, which if it receives planning permission could commence in 2013.
Mr McHugh asked the public to keep the longterm impact foremost in their minds when making their decision about the project, which he described as “immense” in scale and impact, pointing out that the committee was in no way against the principle of wind farms or the farmers involved. “This is the wrong location for a wind farm. Once they start you will have to look at them for 30 years,” he stated.
Along with three other speakers, he then argued their case, with the aid of the international experience for halting the development in its tracks on a number of main grounds, those being the noise impact, property devaluation, the scale and impact to local people’s health and way of living, ecological impact and visual pollution.
Describing Dysart where he has lived for five years as a “nice country area and a fantastic place to live,” the Chairperson said the proposed development would “destroy our way of living, environment and community,” citing the impact of the development on traffic, views, devaluation of property from 20 to 60% and possible health impacts.
He also slammed the company for the lack of consultation with local people in relation to the plans, an inadequate EIS, and the fact that the County Development Plan did not zone the area as suitable for wind turbines.
Showing a picture of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin at 66 metres high, Mr McHugh attempted to show the scale of the wind turbines which would stand over double the height of the landmark at 135 metres high, with another sketch showing the turbines to be equivalent to the height of the London Eye.
A film was also shown of wind turbines in Cootehill in Co. Cavan in a bid to illustrate the scale of the turbines, their location close to homes, noise in the area and the impact of shadow flicker, which the World Health Organisation has said has the potential to induce photosensitive epilepsy.
“That’s what will be in front of you and behind you,” he explained to the crowd. “It’s a sledgehammer being railroaded into our area,” Mr McHugh said starkly, adding the group will be putting in a submission to the council and will engage a planner to look at the application.
However, he said down the road other professionals will be needed to mount a campaign, a step estimated to cost up to €15,000.
“If you as a community don’t come together to fund this you can look forward to 44 turbines,” he warned. “What do you want to say, you have two weeks and then you have no say as it goes to Dublin,” he reiterated, highlighting a Dutch study which showed more noticeable noise at night from residents over 1,900 metres away from turbines, and a French court ruling in 2009 which actually shut down an industrial wind farm at night due to sleep disturbance of local people.
In his wide ranging 45 minute presentation to local people, the Chairperson of the Wind Turbine Action Group South Roscommon also voiced major fears about the legacy a wind farm would leave in the area for the next generation, claiming that the project approval would mean an effective “land sterilisation” in the future as no other development would be allowed in the area. This in turn, he said would lead to depopulation, along with impacts to the water table, archaeological impact, local heritage, flora and fauna.
In terms of health implications, Mr McHugh told the public meeting that in Japan a four year study is underway to examine the health impact of turbines because of complaints from the public, pointing out that there are major fears about the effects Electro Magnetic Interference and sleep disturbance, a consequence of the noise, likened to a swishing sound with a beat.
“There is no socio-economic benefit for people living in this area.
The proportion of jobs is minimal,” he argued, adding that there are still a lot of unknowns in the process like what happens when the turbines are decommisioned, will pylons be erected to bring the power to Athlone and what happens if the business is sold on.
“Once you open the door, it’s open forever,” he concluded, again reiterating the need for objections to be lodged immediately.
“I want to see the area thrive not die, I don’t want the area in ten years time to look like what God left behind,” he concluded before taking comments and questions from the crowd before the meeting ended some two and half hours after it began.
The group will hold a number of clinics over the next two weekends in bid to assist local people to lodge objections to Roscommon County Council against the project.
At the time of going to press, a spokesperson for Galetech Energy was unavailable to issue a comment on a number of the issues raised at the meeting.
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