In a press release issued to The Midland Tribune this week, the Lemanaghan Bog Heritage and Conservation Group said they are shocked and deeply disappointed by the decision of Offaly County Council to “ignore” the 2,300+ submissions made on the draft County Development Plan regarding the proposal to erect 17 giant wind turbines with blade tip heights of 220 metres.
“It raises the valid question,” the Group said in their statement, “what is the point of public consultation?
“Never before has Offaly County Council received such huge engagement from the public, and this disappointing outcome does not encourage people to participate in the process in the future. Public consultation is meant to be one of the key regulatory tools employed to improve transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of regulation.”
The group said the people of Lemanaghan feel strongly that they have been absolutely denied a fair process.
“We have been shouting from the roof tops that Offaly County Council made a mistake in Phases 1 & 2 of the public consultation process, but this is being ignored. It remains a fact that Offaly County Council dramatically changed its zoning during the consultation process.
“They changed the zoning to “East of Doon and North East of Ferbane,” which upset us because we realised that the newly zoned area now included Lemanaghan.
“We reacted to this sudden change by submitting 2,300+ submissions asking for the zoning to be removed. However, the Chief Executive of the Council considered this would be a “major” change and it was not deemed possible at this stage of the County Development Plan.
“Knowing that we did not have an opportunity to make submissions earlier, because it was incorrectly described, in essence we have had no opportunity to made submissions of a ‘major’ nature. Public consultation should be actively seeking the opinions of interested and affected groups, not closing the door to those who engage in the process.
“It is astonishing to think that Offaly County Council’s planning department did not seek legal advice on this issue and that a motion to adjourn making a decision, pending legal advice, was defeated on Friday by Offaly County Councillors, 6 votes to 11. Additionally, no legal advice was sought on what constitutes ‘major’ and ‘minor’.
“To recently vote through a buffer zone that was created without any specialist site survey makes absolutely no sense and is an insult to the team of experts that wrote ‘The Lemanaghan Conservation Plan’, published by the Heritage Council, (and which was supported at the time by Offaly County Council).
“The conservation plan specifically states that ‘It is important that the options considered for the post-industrial use of the bog are sympathetic to the significance of the site.’ Yet here we are, and Offaly County Council have zoned it open to consideration to wind energy, knowing that Bord na Mona wish to place 17, 220meter high wind turbines here. It is indeed an extremely disappointing outcome.
“We sincerely thank the councillors who took the time to prepare for the meeting and spoke up – the people of west Offaly will remember who worked on behalf of the people. This decision, to ignore the will of the people, to deny the opportunity to seek legal advice, will be added to the history books and remembered for generations.
“We won’t give up, this is only the start and we have set out our stall loud and clear. Wind Turbines are not welcome in Leamonaghan Bog, and although Offaly County Council may not understand the significance of the area, we have many people who do.
“On Saturday morning we welcomed Dr Ellen O’Carroll, School of Archaeology UCD and Cathy Moore Archaeologist and wooden artifact specialist, back to Lemanaghan. Both ladies have done extensive excavations in Lemanaghan Bog.
“Cathy found the ‘Tumbeag Bog Body’ in Lemanaghan Bog and Dr Carroll excavated part of the Slí Mor Togher and wrote the book “The Archaeology of Lemanaghan: The Story of an Irish Bog”. They heard about the plan to build a windfarm and wanted to come to talk to the locals to offer their support.
“Their expert opinion is that Lemanaghan bog is not the correct location for a wind farm, they see the area as very unique. It was music to the ears of locals, who have being saying this for months. We are so grateful that such esteemed archaeologists would hold the area in such high regard. Indeed it’s only a pity our own council has let us down.”