Cork County’s energy policy could result in wind farms directly above Castletownshend or along the scenic route above Skibbereen and Leap, a submission to the Draft Cork County Development Plan (DCCDP) claims.
Newly elected councillors have already begun discussions on the Plan and will agree the final draft over the coming weeks.
Over half of Cork county is now available for wind-farming, according to West Cork architect Mr Cohu. Two areas likely to be developed in West Cork are a wedge between Dunmanway, Bantry, Skibbereen and Leap, and south of the Gearagh including the upper Lee Valley and Shehy mountains – an important habitat area.
‘Permitting the one at Shehy will really transform that landscape,” said Mr Cohu. Four wind farms visible from tourist routes approaching Ballingeary have already been permitted, he explains.
The landscape designation hasn’t been reformed or looked at seriously since 1996, he believes. ‘We’ve been through three development plans and they haven’t used field data surveys to re-examine in detail with communities the landscape designation,’ he adds.
Some of the most dramatic landscapes of the county including Borlin, Coomhola and Mealagh valleys, have neither been designated scenic routes nor as high value landscapes, he says. ‘Yet you go across to Kealkil and that has, and it’s such an anomaly,’ he adds.
Mr Cohu proposes protection for the river Ilen Basin and south of the Gearagh Conservation area, and suggests the Borlin, Coomhola and Mealagh valleys be designated High Value Landscapes, from source to sea.
Ireland, like other EU member States, is committed to a National Renewable Energy Plan (NREAP) to limit CO2 emissions.
Yet, says Mr Cohu, at no stage have the alleged benefits of renewable energy and wind-generated electricity on climate change been comprehensively or accurately assessed, either at EU level, National Programme level or by Cork County Council.
Mr Cohu claims there has been no cost-benefit analysis – a key legally binding principle of environmental protection – no alternatives assessed, no public consultation, no monitoring of impacts and no verification of emissions savings and examination of other sources of CO2.
‘What is most disturbing is that no Strategic Environmental Assessment for Ireland’s NREAP has ever been carried out,’ he says.
All this, Mr Cohu claims, has resulted in a policy where 37% of our electricity is to be wind-generated with only 3% from other renewable sources.
‘We don’t have to go into scenic areas because we’ve got enough,’ he claimed.
In response, Cork County Council Mayor Alan Coleman said he had pioneered, in 2001, the mapping of suitable and unsuitable areas for wind energy, ruling out high-value tourism areas on the coast. International practice, he says, is to have tourism and wind energy operating side by side.
Cllr Coleman’s chief concerns are flicker and required distance from dwellings.
Any amendments made in the coming weeks by Cork County Council will be available for public comment in late August.
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