The owner of the family run Gougane Barra Hotel has expressed dismay and anger over the decision by An Bórd Pleanála to green light an appeal to build a wind farm with turbines which will overshadow the Cork beauty spot which is among Ireland’s top ten tourism attractions.
The successful appeal by Wingleaf Renewable Energy followed an initial rejection by Cork County Council and refusal by An Bórd Pleanála. It’s for a seven turbine wind farm on the slopes of Curraglass and Derreendonee which is less than 2km from St Finbar’s Oratory on the shores of the lake and will dominate the skyline above the scenic location.
The wind turbines themeselves will be 178.5m high from ground to the highest point of the blade and, according to Gougane Barra Hotel owner Neil Lucey, will ‘be higher than most peaks in County Cork’.
“Some of these enormous wind turbines will be on sited on 300m elevations just south of here,” Mr Lucey told The Corkman.
These are the largest structures being erected anywhere in Ireland at present – the Spire in Dublin is 121 metres.
“Their decision changes our valley.
“In their controversial decison, An Bórd Pleanála have rejected their own ispector’s strong advice, rejected Cork County Council’s strong advice, ignored our community’s wishes and the wishes of every person who hwinas ever stood in Gougane Barra and felt its magic.
While the backers of the wind farm claim ‘that the development would have an acceptable impact on the landscape having regard to its overall benefits and would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenities of the area’, the hotelier pointed to the comments given by Cork County Council when it rejected the initial application as it was one of the country’s 17 key tourist attractions of national importance.
“The Council advised An Bórd Pleanala that it believed the windfarm would be “excessively domineering from very many vantage points over a wide area” including views from several scenic routes such as the Wild Atlantic Way,” said Mr Lucey, quoting the Cork County Council rejection of the initial application.
He also noted that An Bórd Pleanála had ‘accepted that our community can be subject up to 30 minutres shadow flicker every day and will have to listen to the continuous noise of these turbines daily’.
“22 of our neighbours live within 1.5km of this development, 4 live within 1000m of the nearest turbine. It’s difficult to get rural planning here,” said Mr. Lucey.
“The joy of rural living is slipping away as an industrial giant moves in.
“An Bórd Pleanála said it was accepted in ‘a report’ that the birds were not dependent on the site of the wind farm for breeding or wintering.
“This is a 622-hectare site overlooking Bantry bay and is full of birdlife, wildlife and nature.
“They said that it’s ok to remove 12 hectares of forestry, build roads, change the landscape, build infrastructure to support the tallest structures in Ireland on the side of this mountain.”
Gougane Barra Hotel itself is moving to become carbon neutral and has installed solar panels and taken other measures as it bids to achieve this and wants to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions target which the Government has signed up to, a reason cited by An Bórd Pleanála in its decision to allow this appeal.
“We respect the need for climate change, and we are on our own green commitment journey, we will be carbon neutral in the near future.
“There is a time and place for all things.
“There are decisions to be made but this decision by
An Bórd Pleanála doesn’t sit with nature.”
Mr Lucey said he and his family were in consultation with their legal teams planning their next steps.
“We cannot believe that An Bórd Pleanála could be swayed against their own inspector, Cork County Council’s strong refusal, our community’s refusal and the wishes of so many,” he said, adding that ‘this windfarm could be sold to Amazon’.
“How can a small supposedly informed board, far away from Gougane Barra, have so much power to go against the majority wishes and allow this huge development? Would they allow this to happen on the comparative slopes of Glendalough?
“Goodbye real Ireland, goodbye peace and tranquillity, goodbye beautiful landscape, goodbye quiet spirituality, goodbye picture-perfect scenes, goodbye 622-hectares of unspoilt nature, goodbye silent nights, and dark skies.”
The chairman of Coiste Forbartha Bhéal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh Tadhg Ó Duinnín, who has previously said that the Gaeltacht village was in danger of being surrounded by wind farms, said they would be seeking legal advice before issuing any statement on the decision by An Bórd Pleanála.
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