At a public meeting in Strokestown last night a large majority of people voted to continue to oppose the development of twenty large wind turbines and a microwave mast on Sliabh Bán, the highest peak in Co. Roscommon. This is despite a recent decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission for the development.
A spokesperson for the Sliabh Bán Community Group, Mike de Jong, said that people were committed to protesting legally, but will seek to embarrass any developer or financier involved in the project. At present Sliabh Bán is owned by the state forestry company Coillte, but with the government declaring its intention to sell state assets, it is likely that Coillte will not be the company that develops the project.
The spokesperson said that the main reason that the group were opposed to the development was because the development will infringe on the human rights of people who live nearby. Recently the peer reviewed British Medical Journal has published research indicating that there are health implications for people who live near wind turbines. Several countries are now moving to protect people’s human rights by increasing the minimum distance a large wind turbine can be from residential homes. Ireland’s current guidelines state that 500 metres is the minimum distance a turbine has to be from a family home. The Sliabh Bán Group believes that wind turbines can be audible and annoying for families who live up to two kilometres away.
Roscommon Senator John Kelly is introducing legislation to the Dáil, which defines minimum distances from dwellings for wind turbines according to the height of each wind turbine. The Sliabh Bán Group believe that if that legislation was in place now the proposed wind farm on Sliabh Bán could not be built. Residential homes would have to be 1.5 kilometres away from the 131 metre tall wind turbines. The existing plans for Sliabh Bán show that thirty-one houses will be within one kilometre of the nearest turbine.
The Sliabh Bán Group are also concerned about the impact of the development on tourism in the area. Sliabh Bán is next to the Shannon River, and the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House. They point out that four days ago the British Climate change minister, Greg Barker, said that there had been an ‘unbalanced’ approach to wind farm development in the United Kingdom. Over one hundred MPs had written to Prime Minister David Cameron questioning the economic viability of wind farm development and expressing concerns about the impact of wind farms on British landscapes. It is now reported that senior British ministers are hinting at a reduction in subsidies and ruling out a fresh expansion of wind farms.
Mike de Jong
Sliabh Ban Community Group
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