An energy company have refuted claims that the continued use of a weather mast in the Stradbally area would have negative effects on the surrounding environment.
The use of the 80m lattice type meteorological mast in Ballinteskin has attracted trenchant opposition from around the county, with fears expressed that the mast could be the first step towards the construction of a new wind farm.
Cork-based company Element Power initially applied for permission to use the mast to measure local climatic conditions for a period of 30 years, but this has now been reduced to a five-year duration. However, the company have not given a cast-iron guarantee that no wind farm is planned at a future date, stating that “any met mast to be used in conjunction with the long term operation of any wind farm would be applied for as part of a separate wind farm planning application”.
A petition objecting to the mast signed by close to 120 people was submitted to Laois County Council by Ms Deirdre Macquaile, The Swan, Luggacurran, who accused Element Power of an “appalling absence of engagement and meaningful dialogue” with the local community.
Ms Elizabeth Mulhall, a resident of Ballinteskin, made a submission on behalf of a number of fellow residents, pointing out that the mast is sited next to a Special Area of Conservation. She also said that there are already numerous masts on the land.
Meanwhile, Mr Justin Thomas, representing the ‘Save Our Stradbally’ group, 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.
In response, Element Power say that as the mast was erected in July 2013 and there was no opposition then, it was not considered necessary to undertake additional public consultation.
The company claim that the mast “does not impact negatively on the local community”, nor is there any effect on the local environment, tourism or heritage. It also said that any other masts in the locality have been erected by separate third parties.
A decision is due from Laois County Council be November 16.