The Moy Valley Protection Group has reiterated their opposition to both EirGrid’s Grid West and the controversial Oweninny Wind Farm.
This comes on the back of a story in last week’s Mayo News in which EirGrid’s CEO Fintan Slye said the ESB and Bord na Móna’s intentions with regard to the Oweninny Wind Farm would become clear by the end of this month.
The end of April is the deadline for ESB/Bord na Móna to withdraw from their connection agreement for Grid West with EirGrid without incurring significant financial penalties.
If they withdraw, Mr Slye said, there will be no need for Grid West ‘at this point in time’. If ESB/Bord na Móna signal that they are to go ahead, further consultation will take place. This would include ‘getting views from the communities’ on how to proceed with the increased electricity network in terms of overground pylons or going underground.
In a statement issued last Thursday, Moy Valley Protection Group PRO Martin Daly said the group has ‘no choice’ but to support a court challenge to Oweninny Wind Farm due to what he described as ‘the poor quality of public representation’ in Mayo.
That court challenge is a judicial review into the development and is set to be heard in May, after the closing date for the ESB and Bord na Móna to withdraw. The controversial wind farm, proposed for a 5,000 hectare site near the former Bellacorick power station in Erris, was the subject of an An Bord Pleanála oral hearing back in 2014. After much community concern planning permission was awarded for a scaled-back project during June last.
Dermot McDonnell, an exponent of wind energy, has challenged aspects of the planning appeals board’s permission and taken legal proceedings, primarily because the developers only offered €1,000 per megawatt of capacity towards the Community Benefit Fund. He says this is ‘poles apart’ from a figure stipulated in both the County Development Plan and a specific local authority policy document, which sets such a contribution at €10,000 per megawatt.
However, the Moy Valley Protection Group are opposed to ‘community benefit’, reiterating their objection to the development but supporting Mr McDonnell’s court challenge.
“At a well-attended meeting last summer, with people from Covederra, Shanvalahan, Coolturk, Fermoyle, Dooleeg, Carrowkillen, Moylaw, Pulladoohey. Keenagh, Eskeragh and Bellacorrick, no support was expressed for community gain. No community gain could compensate for living in the shadow of such monstrosities. To many it is seen as blood money,” Mr Daly stated.
Mr Daly continued: “It was agreed at that meeting that a judicial review against further development of wind farms at Oweninney would be needed and that option was explored with the Moy Valley Protection Group’s advocate Peter Sweetman, who was successful for us against Coilte’s Clydaun plans, near Oweninney, which was refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.
“The judicial review against Oweninney has progressed to the Commercial Court courtesy of Dermot McDonnell after Peter Sweetman agreed with Dermot’s approach which challenges Oweninney on environmental grounds and in relation to community gain commitments, which Dermot sees as having been breached.
“In this case, while the Moy Valley Protection Group sees no community gain at all in the project, we support Dermot in his challenge. We await the outcome of that before we make any more decisions. Any action by Dermot that can stall and stop this white elephant is to be welcomed.”
He said the Moy Valley Protection Group ‘will not go away until Grid West is gone and industrial wind farms are stopped’.
He said if that does not happen, ‘we will be ready for the next General Election, absolutely fed up with the sad reality that we have no real public representation on this issue’.
The Moy Valley Protection Group is an umbrella group in the Moy Valley area of north Mayo whose stated aim is ‘to fight Grid West and industrial wind farm developments’.
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