A rural community has appealed to the developers of a nearby 38-turbine windfarm to reconsider plans to drive up to 55 lorry loads of concrete a day through the heart of a village, where children are being collected from pre-school.
Work was due to start last Tuesday on pouring concrete into foundations for turbines at Grousemount windfarm near the Cork-Kerry border.
However, the development by ESB subsidiary Kerry Wind Power stalled after it emerged an appropriate traffic management plan allowing concrete lorries to be driven through the village of Cúil Aodha had not been approved by Cork County Council.
A flashing speed warning sign had already been erected in the Gaeltacht village by the developers in response to safety concerns during previous construction phases.
Increasingly frustrated by what they view as a lack of meaningful consultation by Kerry Wind Power on issues that also include road resurfacing, members of the community are now furious at plans to carry through the village “about 55 loads of structural concrete” and “up to 30 tonnes of reinforcing steel” for each of the 38 turbines, as quantified in the company’s environmental impact statement.
“Next week at the naíonra [pre-school] there will be 24 children under the age of four and a half being dropped off there; the national school will open. We’re worried about pedestrians, other drivers, and most of all about the lack of information,” said Gerard Lynch of community group Cúil Aodha Road Committee.
“It doesn’t really engender much trust in the whole process if a company intends routing that much traffic through a community and they’re not open about their plan to do that.”
Concerns over the speed of construction trucks, he said, had been “a huge problem for months. It’s only because we were shouting and gnawing at them that someone would die that they eventually put up a flashing digital display.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Gobnait Moynihan urged the developers to engage in discussion with the community and to reconsider the use of an alternative route via Clonkeen for construction traffic. That route uses a non-public forestry road and is one of three possible access routes identified.
The other routes are through Cúil Aodha and a narrow road from Morley’s Bridge in Co Kerry, for which approval had been granted.
Ms Moynihan said that at a recent public meeting in Cúil Aodha, company representatives said they had obtained permission from Kerry and Cork county councils to bring trucks through Cúil Aodha as part of a one-way system.
“It was decided by ESBi that they would go up, full, through Cúil Aodha and down, empty, out by Morley’s [Bridge] but the original permission was to drive both up and down Morley’s,” said Ms Moynihan.
“I had already checked with Cork County Council and they hadn’t got permission from them. The ESBi presumed that no reply from Cork County Council was permission.”
Cork County Council, she said, wrote a reply last week to the company’s revised traffic management plan, stating it was not giving permission. She said another option was the Clonkeen forestry road, which the developer claimed was not viable.
In response to detailed questions from the Irish Examiner, the company said: “Kerry Wind Power continues to engage with the local community, as well as Cork County Council and public representatives, on the traffic plan for this phase of construction.
“We are reviewing the traffic plan at present and expect to have a finalised decision in the next week or so. We will communicate with the local community via public meeting on the plan before the first pour.
“The plan is entirely in line with what was set out in planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála and sets out to minimise disruption during the construction period. “Acutely conscious of the inconvenience caused to the local community during the ducting works, Kerry Wind Power went over and above its planning obligations and is resurfacing both sides of the road following feedback received from locals.
“This will provide a significant gain for the local area, long after the development construction is completed. We are continuing a constructive dialogue with Cúil Aodha residents door-to-door, via newsletter, local text system, leaflet drop, and by way of public meetings and via our community liaison officer.”