People from Ballyroan to Timahoe are preparing to stoutly defend their areas against the erection of wind turbines, should An Bord Pleanála (ABP) grant planning approval to Coillte to erect 18 wind turbines in March.
Coillte submitted a planning application to Laois Co Council at the end of last year to erect wind turbines in Ballinaclogh Upper, Garryglass, Clarabarracum, Clontycoe, Dooary, Cloncullane, Crubeen, Cullenagh, Rahanavanagh and Raheenduff Big. However, this planning application was refused following a huge number of objections from locals living in the affected areas. Coillte appealed the decision to ABP and a decision is expected in March.
Many of those who submitted objections to the wind turbines met at a public meeting in Ballyroan last Thursday night to plan their next move, should ABP allow the company to proceed with the erection of the wind turbines.
Addressing the meeting, People Over Wind (POW) spokesperson Henry Fingleton said: “There are two villages in Leinster that have been identified which are in the eye of the storm – Rhode in Offaly and Ballyroan in Laois – because we are surrounded by multi-developers. We’re fighting Coillte with this current wind farm application, we will be fighting Mainstream on the (Cullenagh) mountain. They said they’ll have a dual application in April/May and Element Power, down here (Ballyroan) and Bord na Mona, in time. Gaeltech tried to erect a wind farm in Spink. The current plan for Leinster is that there will be a wind turbine every two square kilometres. That’s government policy. That’s what (Fine Gael deputy) Charlie Flanagan is backing and that’s what (Laois Co Council Cathaoirleach) Mary Sweeney is backing.
“So, any politician that comes during the local elections campaign and hums and haws when you ask them what is happening, they know what is happening because it’s government policy.”
Mr Fingleton said that a huge effort by local people went into highlighting the effects that the Coillte project was going to have in the area. He said that it was now time to re-engage and mobilise the people in anticipation of ABP granting approval to Coillte.
Paula Byrne said that the local group had petitioned ABP to hold an oral hearing into the objections to Coillte’s plans. “The worst case scenario is that we could get a week’s notice for an oral hearing,” said Ms Byrne.
She said that a number from their group had met with representatives from the Ratheniska, Timahoe, Spink (RTS) substation action group, who had engaged in a six-day ABP oral hearing with EirGrid, who are planning a subpower station in Ratheniska, to learn strategies and process when taking part in such a hearing.
She said: “People are now calling Ballyroan the village of the damned. You will have two wind farms here. You will have wind farms in Bord na Mona and Element Power, who are going to develop Coillte land all the way down from Ballyknocken, Ballyruin, Cashel and into Ballyroan village – and that’s just four that we know of. We also think there are options (signed contracts with landowners to locate wind turbines) in Kyle and over to Stradbally and in that direction.”
Jackie Van Den Bergh told the meeting that she had been in Laois Shopping Centre earlier in the day and had come across Laois Partnership, who were looking for submissions for walking and cycling trails throughout Laois.
She said: “There were maps up of proposed walking routes. One route is from Stradbally all the way to Wolfhill. I said to the woman, you do know that that’s where all the turbines are planned for? She said, ‘yes, sure you can have walking routes around turbines.’
“It’s completely unacceptable that Laois Partnership should be putting a view forward that it’s ok to decimate a landscape to put turbines in and, sure, you could walk around them.”
Another woman said: Obviously, that woman with Partnership wasn’t having a wind turbine built on her doorstep, with that sort of reply.”
Another man asked: “Is there any danger that those surveyed by the transition year students in the shopping centre could end up saying that 88% of people in Laois have no problems with wind turbines on walking routes?”
David Fingleton from RTS substation group outlined to the meeting his group’s progress to date in their four-year campaign opposing the planned EirGrid 18-acre subpower station at Ratheniska.
He said: “When you hear the like of (deputy) Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Ryan on the radio at the moment trying to deny that there are any connections with wind turbines and the EirGrid grid link project (pylons), it’s all complete rubbish. If we’re successful in our objection to the substation, it will put a severe dent in the plans for wind farms and pylons. They are interested in one thing and one thing only – get their projects over the line so that they can make as much money out of them as possible.”
It was agreed at the meeting that a core group would be formed to engage with the local community about its ongoing activities, plan further meetings and to formulate strategies for the future. Those on the core group include Shem Delaney, Bridget Davis, Michael Lewis, Mary Bale, David Farrell and Henry Fingleton.
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