Protestors gathered in Bonmahon in beautiful sunshine last Sunday in opposition to plans to erect giant wind turbines in the area.
Hundreds of concerned locals and supporters gathered in the Copper Coast village to protest against plans by BSB Community Energy to build an 11 turbine wind farm in an area incorporating Bonmahon, Stradbally and Ballylaneen.
BSB, which was established by local investors, say the project is striving to become only the second 100 per cent community owned wind farm in Ireland and describe their proposal as being “a ground-breaking wind energy project”, claiming that it will bring many benefits for the local community.
However, this was vehemently disputed by all those present at Sunday’s event.
After gathering in Bonmahon’s main car park, those in attendance heard from a number of speakers before walking to Seafield National School and back to the village.
Kevin Keane of Mahon Valley Against Turbines said he was thrilled with the turnout and said many other people had sent apologies as they couldn’t attend but had pledged their support.
“It’s unbelievable that a project like this would even be considered for an area like this,” he said.
He called on BSB to not submit the project for planning.
“I encourage people to speak to investors and landowners and request that they withdraw from the project,” he said.
He highlighted last November’s meeting at the Rainbow Hall, Kilmacthomas (which members of BSB had attended) when huge opposition was expressed by hundreds of community members.
He also highlighted a recent survey carried out within the community which found that 99.2 per cent of people are opposed to the project.
“Nobody in BSB can claim that this project has community support,” he said.
New wind energy development guidelines announced by the government last month recommend a setback distance of four times the turbine height between a wind turbine and the nearest residential property.
However, Kevin Keane says these guidelines are not sufficient and called on all Waterford politicians to implement a setback distance of ten times.
“Four times setback distance isn’t good enough,” he said.
“People will have to move home if this project goes ahead.”
He said people should “demand” that Waterford City & County Council introduces a “variation” to their County Development Plan.
“Three counties have changed their own County Development Plans to change the setback distance and they have introduced a ten time setback distance,” he said.
The Munster Express understands that an emergency motion is due to come before this Thursday’s plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council.
The motion will call for a “variation” on the County Development Plan and is understood to already have the support of all six Councillors who represent the Comeragh District of Waterford City & County Council.
MANY issues of concern were discussed during Sunday’s protest in Bonmahon against BSB Community Energy’s controversial wind farm proposal for the area.
One of the main issues of concern centres on to the future of Seafield National School – with many concerned parents already vowing to remove their children from the school if BSB’s plan proceeds.
John Kelly of Seafield NS Parents Association claimed the project was being undertaken purely on a “for profit” basis.
“Under no circumstances do parents want this. This is not a community project,” he said.
“If the people involved in this project want extra money, they should do the Lotto like the rest of us.”
Ann Marie Curran’s three children attend the school as do her brother Trevor’s four children.
They both expressed their concerns in relation to impact the proposals would have on the school and schoolchildren.
“Families are deciding that they’re not going to send their children to the school this September because of these fears,” said Ann Marie.
She disputes the information being provided by BSB in relation to the wind turbines.
“They are using examples of wind farms that have been put up on the side of a mountain. But this is a small primary school where they are proposing to put three massive turbines.”
She said the controversial project is having a huge impact on the close knit community.
“You sit beside your friends at Mass or at a GAA match but some of these people are investors in the project,” she said.
Louise Dowling said the Parents Association (of which she is a member) was approached by more than 30 families who requested that they examine the dangers associated with having such large turbines near the school.
“From my own research, I am scared stiff. I don’t want my child to be anywhere near a turbine. I don’t want any turbine near the village full stop, but my main concern is for the school,” she said.
She described the split within the community as “horrible”.
“I have spoken to my friends and said I’ll still be your friend but I’m against what you’re doing,” she said.
Louise runs Hayes’s Pub in Bonmahon with her husband Richard which was badly damaged in a fire in May.
“The community rallied around us and it was lovely to see that. We were overwhelmed. But now this is dividing the community. It’s so sad,” she said.
Niamh Reynolds lives in Kereen in Villierstown underneath eight 140m turbines.
She is situated 1.1km from the nearest turbine and outlined her personal plight.
“Twelve years ago when the application came to our community, nobody objected,” she said.
“We went to the information meetings and we were told that if we lived 500m away from the turbines, the noise would sound like the rustling of leaves in a garden and would have no effect on us. I’m here to tell you that the guidelines will not protect you if you live 500m away.”
She described the recommended setback distance as a “joke”.
Due to the excessive noise levels, she is in the process of fitting triple-glazed windows in order to block the noise from the turbines.
“The noise can be horrendous at times. Sometimes my daughters can’t sleep because of the noise from the turbines,” she said.
“You go to sit out in the back garden but you have to come back in because of the noise. You can’t sit out on these beautiful evenings and enjoy the peace and tranquillity.”
She praised the “fantastic community spirit” which was on show in Bonmahon and encouraged everyone to continue with their fight.
She called on all politicians present to “stand up for the people of Waterford”.
“I have lobbied many Councillors and all the TDs and I have spoken to Ministers. They are all aware there is a problem with the setback distance and they have done nothing about it. In Donegal they have changed their County Development Plan because the community demanded it.”
For local sand artist Manuel Froelich, his latest creation had a hugely personal meaning.
Manuel created a turbine on Bonmahon beach on Sunday last to demonstrate the size of the turbines being proposed for the area as part of BSB’s project.
His creation, which took over three hours, was based on the exact dimensions associated with the project and was accompanied by the words ‘NO TURBINES’.
He lives just two miles up the road from Bonmahon at Ballydowane.
“The proposed wind turbines would be right behind us,” he said.
“I would have six within a distance of one and a half miles which is absolutely shocking.”
He described the current atmosphere within the community as “very sad” and said BSB’s proposal is “splitting the community”.
Manuel is very worried about the health implications as well as the impact the turbines would have on people’s ability to sell their house if they wish to.
“I am pro green energy but we can’t have people living in homes with these monstrosities beside them. I put blood sweat and tears into my house,” he said.
He also has concerns over the future of the UNESCO designation of the Copper Coast Geopark and the impact on tourism if the plan proceeds.
“I love the Copper Coast but it wouldn’t be the same if this plan goes ahead,” he said.
BSB will hold an information event from 4.30pm-8pm at Barron Hall, Stradbally, on Thursday July 13th.
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