Cork county councillors have thrown a spanner in the works of a plan to construct a 22-turbine windfarm on a section of the mothballed ‘super dump” at Bottlehill.
Developed at a cost of €48 million, the Bottlehill landfill facility was initially scheduled to open in 2010.
However, Cork County Council deemed it to be economically unviable due to a surplus of landfill space in Cork, combined with an increase in EU levies on landfill.
This left the authority with a massive financial headache with the council shelling thousands of Euros each year to maintain the site.
In March of 2018 the council confirmed discussions were at an advanced stage with Canadian company Brookfield Renewable (Ireland) Ltd to take over a portion of the site for a windfarm.
It was one of a number of bids being considered for the site after the authority issued a call for proposals through the Office Journal of the European Union.
In January of last year Louis Duffy, head of the Council’s Environment Directorate, said the authority would welcome any use of the site that would generate income for Cork County Council.
Mr Duffy said the Bottlehill facility was originally designed in such a way that it had a peripheral area away from landfill activity for he development of projects that could work hand in hand with it.
“As such, the wind farm would take up approximately 25% of our site, with the remainder of it on adjacent lands. We invested heavily in infrastructure for waste management at Bottlehill and would welcome a reasonable return from any development there,” he said.
Last Monday a large crowd of protesters from the Nagle View Turbine Awareness (NVTA) group gathered outside County Hall to air concerns about the impact that the windfarm would have on rural communities in the vicinity of Bottlehill.
Of particular concern was the potential for excessive noise from the turbines, which would be 169 metres high – more than two-and-half times higher that the county Hall.
Inside the council chamber Cllr William O’Leary (FF) told fellow councillors that the concerns of local were genuine, proposing that his fellow councillors vote against the project.
“No further development of windfarms should take place until new national guidelines on them are published,” said Cllr O’Leary.
It is anticipated there guidelines will be published in the coming months.
While his party colleague Cllr Gearoid Murphy sought a deferral of the vote saying it was premature to make a decision before the guidelines are published, Cllr Frank Roche (Ind) said he had spoken to many protesters some of whom had been “crying” at the prospect of a windfarm being build on their doorsteps.
Backing Cllr O’Leary’s proposal, Fine Gael’s Sinead Sheppard said residents were “genuinely fearful” about the windfarm and had to be supported by councillors.
Meanwhile, council chief executive Tim Lucey echoed Mr Duffy’s previous comments saying the Brookfield project would generate “significant revenue” for the authority, estimating that it could be worth up to €7.5 million to the council over the next three decades.
Councillors subsequently voted against the plan by 44 votes to three, with six abstaining.
While NVTA spokesperson Amy Connolly welcomed the outcome of the vote, she pointed out the final decision would lie with An Bord Pleanála as the project has been given a strategic infrastructure designation.
The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, provides for applications for permission/approval for specified private and public strategic infrastructure developments to be made directly to the board. These generally relate to major energy, transport, environmental and health projects.
However, Ms Connolly said the NVTA would continue to campaign against the project, if necessary seeking a judicial review in the High Court.
“We can fund that kind of challenge. We have already started fundraising and will continue with it,” she pledged.
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