Plans to construct a wind farm consisting of seven 178-metre wind turbines on the slopes of Mount Leinster have been described as “an invasion” that will destroy an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Coillte has announced its intention to apply for planning permission to develop a wind farm at Croaghaun Hill south of the villages of Myshall and Kildavin on the foothills of the Blackstairs. The wind farm will consist of up to seven wind turbines with a maximum overall blade tip height of 178m within the townlands of Rossacura, Cranemore, Kilbranish North, Bealalaw, Raheenleigh and Aclare.
Coillte is expected to lodge a planning application to Carlow County Council in the coming weeks, giving the public five weeks to make a submission.
The proposed application has taken many in the community by complete surprise and prompted the immediate formation of the Save Mount Leinster campaign. An online petition has also started, appealing to Co Carlow’s public representatives to ‘collaborate in order to save Mt Leinster and the Blackstairs’. The petition has already garnered over 2,000 signatures.
It is understood that in late 2019, only residents within two kilometres of the proposed site were contacted by Coillte about the proposed wind farm. Covid-19 restrictions meant that Coillte’s proposed community workshops were postponed, but a website, croaghaunwindfarm.ie, subsequently went live at the end of November.
On the website, Coillte states that it remains committed to keeping the public informed about the progress of the project as it continues to work towards a planning application in December 2020. ‘We are now actively working to find new and innovative engagement solutions to provide you with the best possible access to timely project updates as they become available, in case these restrictions are extended further over the coming weeks and months,’ the website states.
However, many residents believe the public consultation has been inadequate.
“People have been shocked and appalled; there has been inadequate public consultation about this wind farm proposal and the majority of the local community are unaware of it,” stated Cornelia Lucey, who lives in Kilbranish, about six kilometres from the proposed site.
“This is an area the community have worked hard to protect and celebrate, an area of outstanding beauty. We don’t want to be a protest group, but any development there should be community-led with an appropriate scale, appropriate size, appropriate ownership … this feels like an invasion,” she added.
Ms Lucey pointed out that a proposed height of 178m is actually three times taller than any existing turbine in the southeast, a scale that is normally placed offshore.
“I’m almost underneath this proposed wind farm and I have to say I’m very much against it,” stated Niall Toner from Coolasneachta, Myshall. “The way technology is going, wind farms of the technology they are proposing are becoming out of date; in Denmark and Sweden they are getting rid of this model,” he stated.
Mr Toner also questioned locating a wind farm of this scale in an area of special conservation and what he called the “lack of transparency and honesty” around this proposal.
“I fully understand that Ireland is moving in a greener direction and this isn’t about a ‘not in my back yard’ attitude, but why aren’t we looking at alternatives?” he asked.
George Quirke, who lives in Killoughternane, also stressed that this wasn’t about “pushing the trouble onto someone else.
“We shouldn’t really be looking at how to create more energy, but how we use the energy we already have,” he said.
“I just feel at a time when people need nature more than ever, why are we going to take away another area of nature, a place of real beauty?
“With something like this, local people should have a huge say in it, a huge say on what’s in their own community,” said Mr Quirke.
Rachel Pilkington, actor and environmentalist, stated that she was “completely shocked” to hear about the proposal.
“Turbines of that size have no place on a mountainside anywhere in Ireland. The Blackstairs is an area of outstanding natural beauty with glorious panoramic views and it’s somewhere that I feel a great personal affinity to,” she said.
“There will be a massive backlash if planning is approved for this, as it would be detrimental to the health of the land and ecology up there,” added Ms Pilkington.
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