Residents in Ballydesmond are up in arms over a plan to build 14 “mammoth” wind turbines which has already attracted a flurry of over 50 objections and one group objection with over 180 signatures.
At a public meeting held in Gneeveguilla on Monday night residents and members of the newly formed Sliabh Luachra Windfarm group expressed vehement opposition to the 150-metre turbines being erected, in some cases only 500 metres from their homes.
Silver Birch Renewables Ltd has lodged a 1,385page planning application with Kerry County Council seeking permission to erect the turbines which would extend across 15 individual landholdings between the villages of Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla.
Over the past two years, Silver Birch Renewables Ltd has secured over 17 signed letters of consent from landowners stating that they were giving them permission to make their planning application.
Cllr Brendan Cronin (Ind) said he has seen the effects of what windturbines do to a region. “This has a devastating effect on families and it splits communities without question. It’s a huge problem,” he said. THE message from a packed meeting in Gneeveguilla on Monday night rang out: “No one wants these monsters of wind turbines near our homes, our families, our children, our schools or on our land. They are not wanted in any shape or form.”
There was a huge local fighting spirit at the public meeting and over the next number of days and weeks every homeowner will receive a letter from a local organising committee, Sliabh Luachra Windfarm, who are vehemently against the turbines.
Already, over 50 objections have been lodged along with one group objection, which has 180 signatures, to Kerry County Council.
Thomas Fitzpatrick of Sliabh Luachra Windfarm lives in Knocknaboul in Ballydesmond and he has lodged an objection to the planning application by Silver Birch Renewables Ltd.
In his objection, he said the proposed turbines would have an imposing presence on his house, as well as a school and roads. If planning is granted, one turbine will be approximately 600 metres from his front door and would tower over his house.
He also said it would be “near impossible” to sell properties locally and he would also be affected by flicker from the blades.
He also cited noise as being a concern and pointed out that hen harriers “fly right across his house every evening” where one turbine is earmarked for and he also said there is also an endangered barn owl which would be 550 metres from a turbine.
At the meeting, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “If planning is granted it would mean that 160 houses in Ballydesmond would be within one kilometre of these turbines. The turbines are 150 metres high and are some of the biggest in the country, which are being planned for a region which doesn’t want them. No one wants these and they are of no benefit to the region.”
Homeowners Shaun and Bernie O’Rourke, live in Ballinahulla, Ballydesmond. They have five children under the age of 10 years old and are living in their home for about seven years. Mr O’Rourke, also of Sliabh Luachra Windfarm, said the proposed turbines, which are to be erected 500 metres from their home, fills them with “huge concern”.
In their couple’s submission to Kerry County Council, he cited the recent case of some residents in Banteer who had to leave their homes because of the noise and vibrations from turbines which were 1km from their homes.
“What chance do we have with these turbines 500 metres away. It will be devastating,” he stated. He also cited shadow flicker and the devaluation of house prices along with the yet unknown impact on children with special needs, especially children who are vulnerable to the visual and auditory impact because of turbine activity.
He also stated that the hen harrier is already in the area and another resident previously tried to secure planning on his land for turbines but failed because of the presence of the hen harrier.
Mr O’Rourke also outlined that two leading manufacturers have admitted concerns over health and safety around turbines. The most common cause of accidents is blade failure and he noted a recent case in Germany whereby a blade was catapulted more than 1.3km from the turbine when it malfunctioned.
In the objection, the couple stated: ‘A single public meeting has taken place organised by the applicants – Silver Birch in Castleisland, which no one locally knew about and consequently no one attended’.
Mr O’Rourke also told The Corkman that he has conducted research whereby he found published articles by Professor Alun Evans, who has outlined a range of effects which turbines can have on adults and children, including the risk of childhood leukaemia along with sleep disturbance and deprivation. “Professor Evans has recommended a setback or distance of a turbine to be at least 2km away from a home. That is a long way off what we are facing, which is only 500 metres,” he said.
At the meeting, Dr Brin McDonnell, an ecologist who lives in the region, read out his objection, which he has furnished to Kerry County Council against the application for 14 wind turbines. At the end of it, he received a loud round of applause. In his letter of objection, he wrote that people in the region were already blighted with poor subsiding land and roads with constant views of forestry and to enclose the area with wind turbines would further degrade the standard of living as well as home-owners’ right to continue to enjoy uninterrupted views from their properties.
He also said the value of properties in the area would drop dramatically with no future hope of moving without great financial loss and burden.
Regarding his own niche of ornithology, he said that wildlife seek a haven away from busy towns and cities and said this region is one of the “jewels in the crown” of the Kingdom of Kerry, which is well renowned for the red listed hen harrier, barn owls and many other species.
“These constructions would have an adverse effect on the areas of nature. And we are led to believe that the carbon footprint would be reduced in erecting this wind farm, but the amount of concrete poured into the foundations and the importing of these constructions would far out weigh their effectiveness,” he said.
He also said due to an increase in Japanese Knotweed, there could be a growing possibility that it has already invaded the proposed areas of the wind farm development.
He said in the event of the soil being excavated it would become an ideal situation for the knotweed to take hold.
He said, as he is a European funded co-ordinator for the region, he has participated in a four year project to conserve the red listed and endangered species, residing and nesting in the area.
“A vast amount of European money has been spent in facilitating all forms of support and providing nest boxes and baskets. This has proved fruitful in preserving the red listed hen harrier, the barn owls, long earned owl as well as other amber listed species,” he said.
“Animals by nature do not observe boundary lines when feeding, hunting or searching for a mate. Animals need food and an environment which at the moment this area provides,” he said.
With great passion, at the meeting he said: “We have achieved great acclaim for our conservation work within this area and we are held in high esteem by Europe for our achievements as front runners and being an example to others, do we want to lose this status with Europe?”
Moreover, he said his greatest concern is that of “inadequate consultation” as local people say they have not been advised sufficiently well of what is being planned or proposed, with no public or social media information being given.
He issued a stark and severe warning that the “ecosystem would stand on its head” if the turbines were erected.
Cllr Niall Kelleher (FF), Cllr John Joe Culloty (FF) and Cllr Brendan Cronin (Ind) all gave their support against the proposed planning application. However, as noted by Cllr Kelleher, he said whatever route Kerry County Council went it would ultimately lead to the “long road to An Bord Pleanala”.
Deputy Danny Healy Rae (Ind) was also present, but when asked repeatedly what his view was on the planning he said on five separate times that he would have to see exactly where they were planned for as he hadn’t seen the maps.
The view taken not only by members of Sliabh Luachra Windfarm but equally from concerned people on the floor was that “strong local pressure” must ultimately be applied consistently to yield any results.
People attending the meeting were worried about their property and the effect which the wind turbines would have on them.
Mr O’Rourke told The Corkman that it’s his “greatest fear” that planing will be granted which could lead to a “most dangerous precedent” being set in the region.
“It would start off with 14 wind turbines but just where would it all end? What about the people living here?,” he asked.
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