A former senior planner with Cork County Council is among those appealing the council’s decision to approve plans by four pharmachem companies for six very large wind turbines in the Ringaskiddy area of Cork harbour.
Separate applications by De Puy, GSK, Janssen and Novartis for turbines with a tip height of 150 metres were approved by assistant county manager Declan Daly against the advice of senior planner Paul Murphy, who recommended that permission be refused.
Mr Murphy noted that Cork harbour had been designated “one of the finest natural harbours in the world” and said the proposed turbines would be “excessively visually obtrusive” and “impact adversely” on the homes of 1,200 people living in the vicinity.
However, Mr Daly took the view that it was important to support the multinational companies based in Ringaskiddy, where 7,800 people are employed, and their drive to reduce both operating costs and carbon footprints by installing renewable energy capacity.
“Particular reference is made to Cobh cathedral and how it is observed from the mouth of the harbour,” he said in an explanatory note on his decision. “The photomontages do not suggest to me any sense of competition between the turbines and the cathedral.”
However, Tricia Treacy, who retired from the council in 2010, said in her appeal to An Bord Pleanála that the visual character of the harbour would be “badly scarred by these huge structures, which would be so out of scale with the existing buildings, landscape and topography”.
Her submission noted that the spire of Cobh cathedral “is a little under 92 metres high”, but the proposed turbines at Ringaskiddy would be “on very much higher ground and they would have moving blades, so their visual impact would be much stronger”.
If they were to be permitted, a “very strong precedent would be set”, she warned. Not only would they cause “shocking damage to the visual amenities and character of the harbour, but the ‘free-for-all’ that would surely follow would be utterly disastrous visually”.
There were also public safety issues, as the turbines were to be built on industrial sites operating on a 24-hour basis, with one located 750m from Shanbally National School. “The consequences of an accident such as a rotor blade falling off would be catastrophic.”
Ms Treacy noted that the reports of Cork County Council’s senior planner, Mr Murphy, and environmental officer Dr Mary Stack, suggested that some of the turbines “will have detrimental shadow flicker, if not noise impacts, on nearby dwellings and other occupied buildings”.
Although the ostensible purpose of the project was to reduce energy costs and cut the carbon footprint of each of the four companies, she said “no attempt has been made to explain how and why on-site wind turbines would be the most effective means of achieving this”.
She noted that the four applications “are effectively for one wind farm project run by a single project team” – the Cork Lower Harbour Energy Group – but the fact that they were lodged separately “made it much more difficult for third parties to see the wood for the trees”.
While a considerable number of objections had been made, mainly by local residents, Ms Treacy said many were deterred by the cost, as it was very expensive for an individual to object and to appeal against all four decisions – €80 for the objections and €880 for the appeals.
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