The company responsible for an 80m weather mast in the Stradbally area has been asked by the county council to address the concerns of some 120 Laois people who have signed a petition objecting to the mast’s continued use.
Fears have been expressed that the 80m lattice type meteorological mast, erected in July of last year by Cork-based company Element Power, could be but the first step towards the construction of a new wind farm, thus spoiling the natural beauty of a stretch of rural land at Ballinteskin.
People from all across Laois are objecting to Element Power’s proposal to continue using the weather mast to measure climatic conditions for a period of 30 years.
The council has already ruled that the proposed 30-year duration for the mast is excessive and that in the event of a grant of permission, a duration of two years only will be permitted.
Three separate submissions have been made to the council by groups or individuals around the county.
Ms Deirdre Macquaile, The Swan, Luggacurran, forwarded to the council a petition signed by some 115 people, from Timahoe, Stradbally, Portlaoise, The Swan, Spink, Ballyroan, Portarlington, Wolfhill, Mountmellick, Cullenagh, and Old Leighlin.
Ms Macquaile cites the “appalling absence of engagement and meaningful dialogue by the promoter with the local community”, and the visual impact of the mast on the “sensitive rural location”.
Ms Elizabeth Mulhall, a resident of Ballinteskin, made a submission on behalf of a number of fellow residents. She pointed out that the mast is sited next to a Special Area of Conservation. A number of developments have been refused in the area over the past number of years, and she said that there are already numerous masts on the land, “none of which have any planning permission to my knowledge”.
The third submission was made by Mr Justin Thomas, representing the ‘Save Our Stradbally’ group. Mr Thomas said he believed the mast is part of an overall wind farm development, as Element Power have signed options with landowners in order to develop a wind farm at the site.
He also said that Element Power cannot ascertain that there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of the site, which is a Special Area of Conservation.
Laois County Council has since put Element Power’s planning application on hold while the company addresses the residents’ concerns.