More than 210 people gathered on Thursday night the community hall in Knockanore, County Waterford, to express their great anxiety about a massive industrial wind farm development proposed for the area. The meeting was organized by Blackwater Valley Wind Aware, a citizens group formed in March to organize local opposition to the development.
Knockanore lies on a scenic route, adjacent to the Blackwater River. The River is protected by local, national and EU environmental legislation as a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area. A number of townlands extending from Tallow to Youghal, however, are zoned as “preferred” areas for wind power development on the County Development Plan of both Cork and Waterford.
Knockanore residents only became aware of the proposed development in recent weeks, when less than ten households were notified about the erection of an 80 m. high wind-monitoring mast on Coillte land at Coolbeggan West, near the village. The mast is a standard precursor to a planning application for a wind power development.
Concerned local residents listened with horror to speakers whose lives and properties had been affected by wind power developments. Niamh Reynolds, whose family home is overshadowed by the Woodhouse wind development in nearby Aglish, County Waterford, gave a harrowing account of the turbines’ “devastating” impact on her family’s lives. She emphasized how little she and her neighbours had understood of the potential impact when the developer, the ESB, came knocking at their doors twelve years ago.
Eamonn O’Mara, whose community at Ballymacarbry twice successfully defeated a planned wind development for the town, roused the group to action. “A community working together has great power,” O’Mara told the group, “Accept nothing, do your own research, educate yourselves. Knowledge is power.”
Members of the audience undertook to write letters to Waterford County Council urging that Knockanore and adjacent communities be rezoned as “no-go” areas for wind power development because of their visual vulnerability, density of residential habitation and proximity to environmentally sensitive protected areas. Community members also wrote to the County Manager, Michael Walsh, urging him to enforce the Councillors motion of July 2017 to enforce greater set-back distances between wind turbines and homes. Councillor James Tobin who initiated the July 2017 motion was present. Other community leaders in the audience endorsed the letter writing campaign and agreed to join their members to the effort.
The Community Liaison Officer for the the developer Innogy Renewables Ireland – a subsidiary of German energy giant Innogy – said he was unavailable to attend the meeting. In its reply to a list of 23 critical questions about the proposed wind development submitted by Blackwater Valley Wind Aware, Innogy wrote that the project was in too early a stage of development to respond. Questions and answers can be viewed on the website http://www.blackwaterwindaware.com
Blackwater Valley Wind Aware chairman Paddy Massey has warned of the danger posed by large-scale wind power developments such as the one now being mooted for Knockanore by Innogy Renewables. “Now our opportunity to lobby our Councillors with regards to the outdated and not fit for purpose planning laws around wind development. Too big, too close to be to sited in the middle of a community.”
“Innogy and their partners Coillte should be aware,” Massey says, “that the community have no intention of allowing that kind of destruction in Knockanore.”
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