Three thousand people have signed a petition against plans to build a wind farm in an area of the Lee Valley that is considered one of the most ecologically important sites in Western Europe.
Residents of the Lee Valley are on the march with greater vigour than ever in their long-running battle to stop a wind farm going up near Inchigeelagh, amid fears over its impact on the famous Gearagh forest.
Cleanrath Windfarm Ltd secured planning permission from Cork County Council to build six turbines at the head of the Toon River near the West Cork village earlier this month. The company does not believe the development would damage the local environment. But many residents of the Lee Valley fear otherwise and concerns are particularly keen over the impact of the project on The Gearagh – the last remnant of ancient alluvial forest west of the Rhine.
Locals fear the development of the site near Inchigeelagh would lead to even more damaging flash flooding than is already being seen in the forest.
The SAC Gearagh eco-system is so iconic that Cork County Council has even included images of it on its bio-diversity plan publication for the county. One environmentalist has said the Council’s decision to allow the wind farm ‘makes a mockery of [its] biodiversity action plan’.
The nine-year-long fight by locals against the turbines is set to continue on an even sharper footing now. Locals are to appeal this latest decision by Cork County Council on the matter to An Bord Pleanála. And the 3,000 signatures they have gathered in support of the petition are to be sent to the EU Commission on Environmental Law Enforcement and Cohesion shortly.
All this comes as Cork County Council takes part in meetings with the ESB, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) over the conservation of the 1,500-acre Gearagh forest into the future.
One campaigner for the establishment of an eco-tourism site on the Gearagh has said the planning decision makes ‘a mockery of the Council’s biodiversity action plan’. “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,” Kevin Corcoran of the West Cork Ecology Centre said.
Cleanrath Windfarm’s first application for the development was rejected as invalid by Cork County Council; a second was withdrawn and the third application was refused by the authority.
On that occasion the company appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála and while the inspector recommended rejecting the appeal, the board granted permission. Locals obtained a judicial review of that decision last year, halting the project.
This latest decision on the matter comes on the back of the company’s fourth application.
The Council granted planning for six turbines (rather than the 11 initially sought by the firm) in the light of concerns raised in an earlier Bord Pleanála report over the possible impact of the project on the environment. Cork County Council is remaining tight-lipped on the matter as the appeal is underway, a spokesperson said.
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