Members of groups opposed to the erection of wind farms in their areas – the Slieve Bloom Wind Turbine Awareness Group (SWAG) and the Laois Wind Energy Awareness Group (LWEAG) – met with MEP Mairead McGuinness recently.
Paula Poole and Charles Gordon, both from SWAG, told the MEP of their concerns about plans to erect eight industrial turbines 600ft from their homes.
They told her that they each had purchased their homes in the Rosenallis area at the height of the building boom at very high prices. They felt that developing wind farms in the area would have an adverse effect on the market value of their properties and on other properties in the surrounding area. Mr Gordon then queried who would indemnify the local residents and homeowners for such a loss? Another concern to Ms Poole and Mr Gordon is the possible health risks claimed to be associated with wind farms, in particular low ultra sound effect.
Also expressing concern was local Rosenallis farmer Ray Redmond. He said that he felt strongly that farmers’ children who may have wished to build on the family farm in future years may choose to live elsewhere, away from turbines, given the visual impact and the health concerns of living in close proximity to 185m tall turbines.
Local woman Ann Reed wanted to know would there be any detrimental effect on existing flora and fauna in the Slieve Bloom mountains if such wind farms were erected? She said that she was aware that there are a number of breeding pairs of hen harrier, which are a protected species, nesting in her area.
Ray Conroy, Patrick Wilson and Julie Scully from LWEAG told of deep divisions in the community in the Vicarstown and Ballybrittas areas where neighbours, family and friends are falling out over the proposals to erect wind farms on surrounding lands.
Mr Wilson said that a number of wind energy companies had made promises to local sporting organisations attempting to recruit support for their wind farms.
Ms Scully told of her concern at the potential destruction of the environment and landscape in two special areas of conservation (SACs) in the county. She said that the River Barrow and the Slieve Bloom mountains are listed as SACs and prime wildlife conservation areas, which are considered to be important on a European as well as Irish level. She also claimed that the tourism potential of these areas would also be jeopardised if permission was granted to erect wind turbines in these areas.
Ms McGuinness told the groups that she is not an expert on wind farms but, in principle, would support both European and national policies that seek to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Replying to the issue of community divisions, she said that it must make everyday life uncomfortable when such strong and opposite opinions exist on the matter. SWAG members told her that they felt a similar situation was building up in their community and that, if such a scenario did materalise, that it would have long-term consequences for the close-knit area.
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