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Very varied views on impact Glenties wind farm would have presented

In closing statements at the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on a proposed wind farm outside of Glenties, representatives of the developers and of objectors to the development presented very different views of the impact of the project on the local environment and on people’s health.

Speaking at the end of six days of submissions, the closing statements illustrated how far apart the parties remain.

Gavin Lawlor, director of Tom Phillips and Associates, representing the developers, said the wind farm “is within the best interests of proper planning and sustainable development, not only for the country’s energy security, but also for the Glenties area.”

John Evans, representing the Glenties Wind Farm Information Group, said, “An Bord is obliged to balance the conflicting objectives that are apparent in this application at Straboy. We submit that the balance comes down against this proposal and on the side of the town of Glenties, its environs, its people.”

The oral hearing was called after 15 appeals were lodged against Donegal County Council’s decision in January to grant planning permission for 22 of the 25 turbines in the Straboy Wind Energy Ltd. application. The wind farm would sit 1.5 kilometres north east of Glenties.

In his statement, Mr. Lawlor cited submissions from experts the developers had presented at the hearing in town planning, environmental and health issues, noise and vibrations, archaeology and geology and hydrogeology. He said submissions for the developers indicated that the wind farm would have no impact on protected views, and said there were no occupied dwellings within 500 metres of any turbine. In rejecting suggested health impacts he said the applicant had submitted 17 scientific studies rebutting the phenomenon known as “Wind Farm Syndrome”.

Mr. Lawlor also defended the applicants’ assessment of the project’s impact on the environment and bird life. However, he said applicants would accept a condition to any consent that a further confirmatory breeding bird survey would be carried out from April to June, before development began. He said if the survey identified any of a number of protected species to be nesting, such as Golden Eagle or peregrine, construction would not be undertaken from April to June of any year.

Mr. Evans, in his closing statement, raised the issue of the 2003 landslide at Derrybrien, County Galway, which dislodged 450,000 cubic metres of peat over a 32-kilometre stretch. The peatslide polluted a river and killed 50,000 fish. In 2008, the European Court of Justice found a proper environmental impact assessment had not been carried out for the Derrybrien wind farm project.

During the hearing, experts called by objectors criticised the methodology and conclusions of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Straboy project.

“It is our view that the inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement of 2011 prepared by the developers of the Straboy project has been comprehensively demonstrated by expert testimony,” Mr. Evans said.

He also said objectors employed a broad base of information: “Human values, environmental sciences, love of this beautiful location, mathematics, appreciation of culture, engineering, love of family – all have been at work to make our case to the inspector and to An Bord,” he said.