Gardai were called on Saturday to the scene of an ongoing stand-off between a landowner and workers laying cable to connect an electricity substation located near Inchageela to nearby windfarms.
The Gardaí were called as a result of complaints from landowner Joe Franz that he had been hemmed in with railings by unidentified men who arrived at the scene at Carrigdangan before 7am on Saturday.
Joe and his wife, Diana Kuehnal, own Fruit Forest Farm, a permaculture arboretum and wildlife sanctuary in Carrigdangan. They have been camped out on the side of the road which runs alongside their holding for more than three weeks.
This follows their discovery that workers connecting cable to the nearby substation had run the cable under their side of the road without seeking their permission and, in their understanding, contrary to the planning permission.
According to their estimations, backed up by their engineer, their boundary runs two metres into the road, the L8535, and the site of the proposed junction box to join the underground ducts is on their land.
Joe and Diana have long been involved in a campaign to halt the development of windfarms on Shehy More and Carrigarierk, both of which are being developed by companies linked to prominent businessman Michael Murnane.
According to Joe, the cabling underneath their road, which took place last December when he was away attending a family celebration in Germany, and its discovery in early May when the resurfaced road was partially excavated to install a junction box, gives him ‘the tools to stop the development legally’.
“I am not totally opposed to them [windmills] in principle but I’m totally against them where developers don’t consult with the local communities, which is what has happened in this case and many other cases around the country.”
He was involved in a group which challenged the Carrigarierk Windfarm, a project of Keel Energy Limited, a company of which Michael Murnane is a director.
While the application for the five turbine windfarm at Carriagarierk was initially refused by Cork County Council, it was subsequently approved on appeal by An Bórd Pleanála, a decision which left the locals with a considerable legal costs bill which they’re still paying off.
A similar appeal against the Shehy Mor windfarm was withdrawn by the group involved when it seemed likely that they could be burdened with their own costs and that of the other party if they lost.
One of Joe Franz`s concerns about the substation which has been built close to his farm, within 300m, is that it could accommodate a much larger number of windfarms than Shehy Mor with 11 turbines and Carrigarierk with five turbines.
“There’s a complex of windfarms growing in one of Ireland’s most scenic regions, from Shehy to Gougane.”
Joe has written to Cork County Council pointing out his concerns about the substation and its ‘flawed planning application’ but, as he says himself, he did not receive as much as a receipt of his registered letter.
He said that local watercourses have been badly affected by the building of the substation.
Macroom and District Environmental Group, who have been supporting Joe and Diana, have said the development had impacted the pearl mussel in the Bandon River Basin,.
“Things have quietened down since Saturday,” said Joe. “They’ve become resigned to the fact that we’re not going away.
“Two local families with young children have left the area – that’s the lifeblood of the community,” he said.
“This is an illegal building site that has been put on our property without our permission, nor permission from the planning authorities.
“We welcome supporters to visit or stay with us on our property.”
The stand-off continues.
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