Members of the Baltinglass Municipal District have expressed their opposition to proposals to develop a wind farm at Kilranelagh north of Baltinglass, calling for west Wicklow’s ‘unique landscape’ to be protected.
The matter was raised on Monday during Baltinglass Municipal District’s January meeting which was held via Zoom.
Last week, ABO Wind lodged an application seeking permission to develop five 165m wind turbines and associated infrastructure at Kilranelagh Hill. However, Wicklow County Council’s planning section ruled the application incomplete as the site notice had not stated the site boundary includes a protected structure.
Cllr Edward Timmins (FG) proposed a suspension of standing orders to discuss the issue of the proposed wind farm. The motion was seconded by Cllr John Mullen (FF).
Cllr Timmins said the proposal to develop a wind farm was of great concern to people living in the area. A project to understand more about the history of the Baltinglass Hillfort complex was in its infancy, however, Cllr Timmins said the findings so far suggest the area’s archaeology could have ‘huge importance’ both nationally and internationally.
‘This is a unique landscape,’ Cllr Timmins said, expressing concerns about anything that might ‘work against the protection of the landscape’.
‘This is a massive resource on our doorstep, which I think will become a national monument within ten years,’ Cllr Timmins said. He proposed members of the Baltinglass Municipal District make a joint submission to the planning section to outline their concerns about the proposed development.
Cllr Mullen said it was not the first time he had dealt with ‘industrial onshore’ wind projects and highlighted their presence in the south of the county.
‘I didn’t think then or now that the landscape is suitable. Our landscape is unique, particularly the uplands area.’
Cllr Mullen argued that proposed offshore wind projects off the coast of Wicklow would have the capacity to meet the energy requirements of the county and large parts of the country.
Cllr Mullen said he found ABO Wind’s strategy ‘very aggressive’, particularly pressing ahead with the application during Level 5 lockdown. He also said he questioned how an appropriate public consultation could have taken place ‘in the middle of a pandemic’.
Cllr Mullen then said the approach taken by ABO Wind was ‘disrespectful of the community and councillors’. He argued there was a shared responsibility to protect the landscape for the next generation and councillors should be ready to fight against national government if necessary to preserve the area for future generations.
Cllr Avril Cronin (FG) also voiced her concerns, and said that the submission of a planning application by ABO Wind during Level 5 showed ‘grave disregard’ for the community and created a ‘sense of frustration’.
Describing the area as unique, Cllr Cronin called for the district to ‘get behind’ local people. She said the district must speak with Wicklow County Council about the County Development Plan and the need to protect the area.
‘We should make a submission as a district. It’s of huge concern to people in the area. This land has unique historic and natural beauty and this is an opportunity to see it protected.’
‘Now is our chance to fight for our area and to protect its natural beauty,’ Cllr Cronin added.
Cllr Vincent Blake (FG) highlighted the investments in time and money made into studying the archaeology of the area. He argued this process must be completed before any applications for a wind farm should be considered.
Cllr Gerry O’Neill (Ind) called on his fellow members of the Baltinglass Municipal District who are members of political parties in government to use any influence they had to ‘put a stop to this’. While he accepted the need for renewable energy, Cllr O’Neill described the submission of the planning application during a pandemic as ‘dreadful’ and ‘cowardly’.
The Zoom meeting of Baltinglass Municipal District was observed by members of the gropus campaigning against the development of the wind farm.
Local resident David Case told councillors that the Baltinglass Hillfort complex is part of a ‘unique landscape’ of interconnected elements that should be protected. He told councillors those was ‘very annoyed’ that an application for planning permission was lodged during a Level 5 lockdown. This meant that those opposed to the development could not meet in person to organise their submissions. He also highlighted the campaign’s fundraising efforts to cover the costs of submissions and independent reports.
The area has ‘huge potential’ for tourism and the ‘potential to be an UNESCO World Heritage site’, Mr Chase said. He asked councillors to work to amend the County Development Plan to recognise Baltinglass’s unique status and to ‘prevent a company putting a wind farm on an unsuitable site”
Mr Case thanked councillors for their support. He urged them to make individual submissions about the planning proposal and to work to change the zoning of the area.
Cllr Patsy Glennon (FF) said it was a matter for each councillor if they wished to make individual submission on the planning application.
Councillors then considered Cllr Timmins’ motion that Baltinglass Municipal District make a submission on the planning application. This was seconded by Cllr Mullen and agreed by all councillors present.
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