Midlands residents and wildlife groups are pleading with Bord na Móna to abandon “illogical” plans for a windfarm on a bog that has been returning to nature after years of peat harvesting.
An Bord Pleanála approved the windfarm at Derryadd near Lanesborough, Co Longford, despite the planning inspector it assigned to the case recommending refusal.
The site falls within lands designated by Longford County Council for development as the Mid-Shannon Wilderness Park to allow for conservation projects to be developed hand-in-hand with eco-tourism.
A Mid-Shannon Wilderness Park Awareness Group, comprising of local residents, landowners and conservationists, has backed the park project, as have surrounding counties.
Niall Dennigan, group spokesman, said the windfarm was not compatible with the park.
He said it also contradicted national policy which was now opposed to commercial peat harvesting and focused on re-wetting and restoring bogs, both for wildlife protection and as natural carbon sinks which trap harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“There’s all this talk about re-wetting bogs and putting money into rehabilitating them when this bog has been rehabilitating itself naturally.
“All Bord na Móna had to do was switch off the pumps and it came back to life. Now they want to put the pumps on again and drain it. It’s completely illogical,” he said.
Bord na Móna argued in its planning submissions that the 24-turbine windfarm and surrounding buffer zone would only take up 200 hectares of the 1,900 hectares identified for the wilderness park.
It said the windfarm would reduce dependence on fossil fuel power and cut carbon emissions to a far greater extent than the bog it would be built on.
The Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council all expressed concern about the impact on wildlife.
Whooper swans, Greenland white-front geese, merlins, peregrine falcons, barn owls, lapwings, buzzards, hen harriers, white-tailed eagles, woodcock, golden plovers and curlews have all been recorded in the area.
Sinn Féin climate action spokesperson Lynn Boylan, who raised the issue in the Seanad, said the windfarm made no sense in this location.
“Having a just transition for the peatworkers is so important and developing the wilderness park would give them jobs right now. They know this land and it would be a perfect role for them,” she said.
She said she was disappointed that Bord na Móna would not consider a compromise proposal for a solar farm which would not require the construction of permanent infrastructure and would be far less disruptive in operation.
Bord na Móna said in a statement it welcomed the decision to grant planning permission but it had to carefully study the details and would not be making any further comment at this time.
Mr Dennigan called on Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan to intervene given his recent announcement of €15m in public funding to rehabilitate 33,000 hectares of Bord na Móna peatlands.
However, his department said planning was a matter for the Department of Housing, which said it was precluded by law from interfering in a planning case.
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