The uproar prompted by An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to grant the appeal of Wingleaf Ltd to develop a windfarm on the historic pass of Céim an Fhia near Gougane Barra has to some degree obscured some of the important cultural and tourism developments in the area that this may impact.
Work has been ongoing for several years, and continues, to develop and promote the Béara Breifne walking tour, the longest such trail in the country, part of which, Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí, passes from Gougane to Millstreet, a distance of 50km.
The Beara Breifne way is similar to the Camino di Santiago in Spain and draws many people to walk it in its entirety or in stages. There are twelve stages to the 500 km route and you can collect a stamp for your passport as you complete each stage.
According to the count of Neil Lucey, the Gougane Barra Hotel owner, there are more than 60 turbines already in the immediate vicinity of Gougane Barra – these include 38 at Grousemount, one of the largest windfarms in Ireland, which is clearly visible as you leave Gougane.
“The trail of turbines that already exists – and that is being added to constantly – runs along the route of Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí, or very closely to it, all the way from Kealkill to Millstreet,” he said.
Then there’s the Shehy More windfarm with ten turbines between Ballingeary and Dunmanway.
As you journey towards Baile Mhúirne there’s a windfarm on your right hand side, Cleanrath with 11 turbines, which was the subject of a Supreme Court ruling overturning a decision of An Bórd Pleanála to approve a wind farm development there because of the failure to take into consideration the impact of noise from the turbines.
In a few short weeks, if the developers’ online timetable is adhered to, residents in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh and Cúil Aodha will be receiving the latest update about the Gortyrahilly windfarm which will be located close to the Cleanrath Windfarm. The plan was originally for 12 turbines but an update issued by the developers, FuturEnergy/Coillte, in April 2021 confirmed that a windfarm of 15 turbines was being considered.
As you travel towards Cúil Aodha, the Grousemount windfarm with its 38 turbines can still be seen. It’s located on the Kerry side of the border which runs alongside the famous Top of Coom pub.
There’s at least one other windfarm to the north and west of Grousemount with plans being developed for a further windfarm with 21 turbines at Commeenabodogue.
The windfarms planned for Gortyrahilly and Coomeennabodogue are joint ventures being proposed by FuturEnergy and Coillte in a joint venture, who are also involved in the windfarm of 19 turbines planned for Ballinagree, on the slopes of Mushera. This is also part of the Béára Breiffne waiy..
While there’s no indication as to the height of the Gortyrahilly or Coomnabodogue wind turbines, the proposed heigh
t for the turbines of the Ballinagree wind farm, for which a planning application has been submitted at the beginning of the month, is 180-185m. The trend appears to be towards ever taller wind turbines.
The same joint venture is planning a six turbine wind farm at Inse Mór/Inchamore near Cúil Aodha. Beyond Mullaghanish, there are a number of other wind farms already at Gleann Daimh and Coomacheo. The Coomacheo windfarm is a windfarm developed by SSE Airtricity.
During the appeal brought by Wingleaf, the developers of the proposed windfarm at Curraghlas and Derrydonnee which is at the centre of the current controversy, reports by Fáilte Ireland on the impact of windfarms on tourism and, specifically, their enjoyment of the landscapes were considered by An Bórd Pleanála.
While these reports were generally favourable to wind farming and downplayed its impact on tourism enjoyment of amenities. The submission by Fáilte Ireland, in its role as a statutory consultee, pointed to the concerns of Cork County Council when it refused the application.
“The proposed development would be situated in a mountainous and highly scenic area of West Cork within the Wild Atlantic Way Region,” the report states.
“While the immediate catchment of the WAW is the coastal zone, the route itself acts as a calling card to gain the attention of the visitor and acts as a device to entice people to the west of Ireland.”
The Fáilte Ireland submission recommended the concerns of the planning authority and the local tourism businesses should be given ‘full consideration’.
In a Fáilte Ireland report from 2018, seen by The Corkman, reference is made to the specific impact on Gougane Barra of wind turbines.
The report describes as ‘numerous’ the number of wind turbines in the vicinity of Gougane Barra and indicates that a survey among visitors found 11 per cent who noticed the presence of wind turbines.
What is pointed out, however, by opponents of the proposed development of a windfarm near Gougane Barra. That most of the wind farms which are now visible from Gougane Barra, the 38 turbine farm at Grousemount, the developments at Cleanrath and Shehy More had not been developed.
There has been signfiicant development since then and this may impact the perception by tourists of wind farms.
In a submission made by Fáilte Ireland regarding a proposed windfarm development, near the Trump Hotel in Doonbeg, Co. Clare, which came to light in 2018, Fáilte Ireland objected in these terms:
“It is submitted to Clare County Council that the incremental proliferation of wind farm developments within this area of the county will detract from initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way and the existing and significant tourism resource of this area.”
Is the escalating development of wind farms in this part of west and mid Cork reaching the proliferation that raised the concern of Fáilte Ireland’s concern in Clare.
Whatever legal challenges to the Gougane Barra decision might unfold, there may be another opportunity for people who are concerned to make these known.
At present Fáilte Ireland are carrying out an audit of the Béara Breifne Way to assess how it can be further developed to ensure that more than 80% is off the road – at present it’s around 60 per cent off-road – and this is expected to be completed in May.
Later this Summer, Fáilte Ireland will be putting out to public consultation an environmental impact assessment document on the Béára Breifne way, which incorporates Slí Gaeltacht Mhúscraí or the Turbine Trail, may be then people will be able to make their voices heard above windmill noise?
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