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Planning rejection for giant windmills at Gougane Barra

Locals and environmental campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the decision by Cork County Council’s planning department to refuse an application for a proposed windfarm near Gougane Barra with turbines three times the size of their own HQ, County Hall.

The reasons given by the local authority’s planning office to refuse the application by Wingleaf Ltd, a company which includes Macroom entrepreneur, Michael Murnane, among its directors, include the concern that the proposed Curraglass development would dominate the scenic locality which includes one of Ireland’s most visited tourism destinations, Gougane.

The height of the seven turbines, at 178.5m, was one of the main features of the proposed development that prompted a large number of objections from locals.

In its determination, the Planning Authority stated this much about the development: “This would provide for a highly intrusive visually domineering form of development that debases the integrity and the landscape character that would seriously and unnecessarily injure the High Value Landscape areas.

“In addition, if permitted, it would act as a catalyst for other inappropriate and similar windfarm developments of excessive wind turbine heights when ‘repowering’ windfarm developments are considered.”

In reference to the area’s attraction to cycling and walking tourists, one of the reasons for refusal is stated as follows: “Given the absence of compelling evidence and a proper detailed study and assessment of the cycling routes and the walking trails, consistent with the ‘precautionary principle’, the Planning Authority is not satisfied that sufficient, or any, compelling evidence has been submitted to conclude that the proposed windfarm will not have an adverse impact on local tourism.”

According to Tadhg Ó Duinnín, the chairman of Coiste Forbartha Bhéal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, the rejection of the planning permission application for the site was welcome but the village in which he lives is still surrounded by wind turbines on the overlooking slopes.

“I’m aware that other proposals are in the works for more windfarms so we will be keeping an eye out,” he said.

He also emphasised the failure of the developer of the proposed project to enter into any consultation with the people in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh despite them being less than 5km from the site.

While a consultation was carried out within 2km of the proposed development, many of those who sent objections said the height of the turbines meant the area of consultation should be far wider.

“For a project of this size, a 2km zone of consultation is not enough – the turbines would be visible to a much wider area than a 2km radius and would be visually and aurally obtrusive,” said Paul Lynch, one of those resident near Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh who objected and a member of Macroom District Environmental Group.

Another concern which has been voiced is the silence of Cork County Council on the other element of the Curraglass project, the proposed battery storage units at the site.

Many of those who sent observations pointed out their anxiety about such units and how an accident at the site involving the battery units could lead to toxic fumes being blown towards Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh by the prevailing south westerly wind.