March 14, 2011

Leave Donegal landscape alone – wind farm objectors

Donegal Democrat, 5 February 2011

A proposed 13 turbine wind farm near Ardara would destroy a Gaeltacht and its built heritage, ruin rare wildllife habitat and drive tourists away, opponents to the scheme claim.

Altnagapple Wind Ltd was granted conditional planning permission for the development on 253 hectares at Altnagapple and Mulmosog. A number of appeals, however, have been lodged with An Bord Pleanla, which is now considering the matter.

One objector says that one of the turbines, which will be 65m high and have 82m wide blades, will be located within 200 metres of a 152 year old thatched cottage.

“The wind farm contravenes Donegal County Development Plan, which stipulates that our built heritage, our rural architecture is ‘as important to our cultural identity as the spoken and written word’.

“There are five vernacular Donegal houses in Altnagapple, as well as the Garraban, a pre-Christian site.

“There are ten homes located within 500 metres of the proposed turbines, not one as was indicated on the planning application. Some of the land included in the application is not owned by the developers and written consent was not given by the landowners for the project.

“In addition, Upper Altnagapple is a Gaeltacht, and as such protected under the County Development Plan. If this wind farm goes ahead, this Gaeltacht would be wiped out.”

Submissions to the planning board also argue that the negative impact of the wind farm on landscape and wildlife was not adequately assessed.

“The bird survey and flora and fauna study was carried out in the winter months over just two days. This is totally inadequate, both in terms of the size of the site, which is 253 hectares, and in terms of not being comprehensive. A year round survey would have given a more accurate picture regarding wildlife using the habitat.

“No proper risk assessment has taken place regarding the peatlands or bog being prone to landslides on these steep, mountainous slopes. Allowing turbines and roads on the site will dry out the habitat and eventually destroy it as well.”

One appellant notes that a 4.5m access track is included in the development, despite an Order from the County Manager that ‘no access track to the mast shall be constructed as part of this permission. Reason: To protect the natural habitat of the area.” Another disputes the developers claim that traffic to the windfarm will consist only of “one light van.”

“We need a Roadles Area Conservation Rule, such as they have in America, to protect our wildlands, wetlands and blanket bogs. We are too small a country to absorb these massive structures, five to ten thousand of them, into our landscape.”

The objectors warn “the cumulative effect of these thirteen turbines will stop hill walkers and tourists from coming back to this area.

“It’s self-evident that wind farms have a powerful destructive visual impact on our landscapes. We should leave this stunning Donegal landscape alone.

Mr Conal Shovlin, one of the directors of Alnagapple Wind Ltd, said the company would not comment at this stage. “The file is with with An Bord Pleanla, and we’ll wait for their decision That’s how the system works.”

Co-director John Ward agreed. “We did all the assessments, consulted wth all the authorities and done everything we were asked to do. Now it’s simply a matter of awaiting the board’s decision.”

URL to article: