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‘We’ll fight them with last breath in our body’

The Wind Turbine Action Group South Roscommon has vowed “to fight even more vigorously than last time” plans for a €100 million wind farm in parts of Dysart, Brideswell and Taughmaconnell.

Over six years after the local community won a High Court battle overturning the approval for what was called the Seven Hills wind farm, people are readying themselves for another major fight, according to the group’s chairperson, Ted Kelly.

“We are going definitely going to fight even more vigorously than last time,” he bullishly stressed on Thursday last. “We have more financial backing than last time,” although he declined to say where the money was coming from.

Initially, over a decade ago now, it was Cavan-based Galetech driving the proposal, now it is the the more high-profile Energia Renewables, who have revived the project for a 21-strong wind turbine project stretching over areas of Dysart, Brideswell and Taughmaconnell which attracted huge local opposition when it first came to light back in 2010.

It was revived last month when the energy provider submitted a request to An Bord Pleanála seeking a formal pre-application consultation meeting under legislation governing Strategic Infrastructure Developments (SID), the fast track planning process for large scale development which essentially bypasses the local authority planning process.

Following this meeting, An Bord Pleanála will rule whether the documents submitted constitute a reasonable basis for a SID application – and if so, a formal planning application can then be lodged directly with the board. A decision from An Bord Pleanála on the pre-application aspect of the SID process is due by August 8 next.

The power company is “working with Galetech Energy Developments to develop a wind farm site in south Roscommon,” according to the Energia website, and the townlands mentioned in the new application are Cronin, Gortaphuill and Mullaghardagh.

Local people are shocked and surprised that this project is back on the horizon according to Ted Kelly, and they have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

“We don’t know exactly where they are going (the turbines), we don’t know what height they are or we don’t know the height of the foundations. Last time, the foundations were 20 metres by 20 metres and 16 metres deep. I worked out that you would need 2,925 round silage bales to fill that hole.”

Mr Kelly, who has land within 250 metres of where he believes some of the turbines will be located has not yet been contacted by the company, and says he has had trouble getting through on their phone line.

His main concerns are the impact on Killegan Springs, which supplies water to much of south Roscommon, what could happen to the nearby turloughs, and the potential for huge flooding similar to Lough Funshinagh, and of course, the impact on birds, wildlife and the countryside.

“When I stand on my land on a good summer’s day you can see the Devil’s Bit in Tipperary. You can imagine what a 180 metre high turbine would do to that,” Ted observed, adding that the group is working away in the background given the current restrictions to plan the opposition.

“We’ll fight them with last breath in our body. Local people are so shocked that they are trying to come back here. People are behind us more so than ever,” he vowed.

According to the developers, the proposed wind farm will give rise to a range of benefits, including up to 100 construction jobs, according to the project backers. It will also create permanent operation and maintenance roles, as well as ancillary functions, and a community benefit fund for local groups they claimed.

A community consultation meeting was due to take place shortly in Dysart but government restrictions have put paid to that for the time being. The company is now concentrating on consulting with the public via post/phone and email until the meetings can be rescheduled.

A formal planning application for the project is not expected to be lodged with An Bord Pleanála until next year.