Families living in the Lee Valley area of Co Cork are refusing to give up their nine-year fight to stop a windfarm being sited close to one of the Europe’s last ancient river forests. They are to appeal Cork County Council’s latest decision to An Bord Pleanála.
Earlier this month, the local authority granted planning permission to Cleanrath Windfarm Ltd to build six wind turbines near Inchigeelagh. The planned farm is sited at the head of the Toon river that flows into the forest, a special area of conservation.
In recent months, Cork County Council has been taking part in meetings with the ESB, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) about the future conservation of the Gearagh site.
Kevin Corcoran of the West Cork Ecology Centre, who has long campaigned for the 1,500-acre Gearagh forest to become an eco-tourism site, said the windfarm decision “makes a mockery of the council’s biodiversity action plan”, which actually includes Gearagh images: “Despite clear evidence to show that the forested islands of the unique river delta will undergo further disintegration by increased flash flooding, council planners dismissed such concerns and accepted the opposing arguments of the developer.”
This is the fourth time Cleanrath has lodged the windfarm planning application. Their first application was rejected as invalid by the local authority; a second was withdrawn. The third application was refused by the council, but the developers appealed to An Bord Pleanála. The board’s inspector recommended rejection, but the board granted permission. In response, a local couple managed to raise the money to fund a judicial review which halted the application last year.
However, this fourth and latest planning application was given the green light by Cork County Council, to the disappointment of families and environmentalists. Originally, the developers sought 11 turbines but the council only allowed six, as an earlier Bord Pleanála report expressed concerns about the farm’s environmental impact on the area’s ecology.
Locals have gathered 3,000 signatures as part of a petition against the development to be sent to the EU Commission on Environmental Law Enforcement and Cohesion.
A section of the Gearagh was controversially flooded by the ESB in the 1950s to make way for hydroelectric dams at Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra. Thousands of ancient oak and yew trees were destroyed. However, over the past 30 years, much of the area has begun to revert back to forest as seeds from the older forest germinate. Willow, birch, hazel and oak have all started to grow.
A council spokesman said they were unable to comment as the case was under appeal.
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