The presence of a member of An Garda Siochána in Kilbane for a so-called protest that never materialised against a proposed wind farm left a sour taste among residents who gathered to attend a public consultation clinic on Tuesday evening.
One Garda stood in the village during the information clinic that was organised by EDF Renewables and a second Garda came in a different vehicle for a brief period before departing shortly afterwards when it was patently clear there was no sign of any public demonstration.
A member of An Garda Siochána from Tulla Garda Station told the Clare Champion he was tasked earlier that day to maintain a Garda presence in Kilbane for a planned protest.
Acknowledging there was no sign of any public demonstration, he said that he couldn’t leave the village until he was sure everything was ok. He left before the consultation clinic finished at 7pm.
EDF Renewables organised a public consultation clinic in a mobile home, which was located in the middle of the village.
Residents gathered in a group of about 70 in the village as they waited to meet three company representatives in the caravan that could only accommodate a maximum of six people at any one time.
One householder described the attendance of the Gardai as a “bad start” for the company. There was no placards, signs or any visible sign of a demonstration from about 6 to 7pm on Tuesday evening
Even though the Lackareagh and Fahybeg Wind Farms are being developed by different companies about a mile apart in the one catchment area, plans are underway to set up a joint residents’ committee with representatives from both localities.
Resident, Mike Ryan, who was born, reared and has lived in Kilbane all his life, expressed fears this wind turbine project could end up splitting the local community, which he doesn’t want to see happening.
Mr Ryan said residents asked questions at a consultation meeting with the company a few weeks ago, but didn’t receive any satisfactory answers, which prompted locals to call a public meeting last Friday night.
This meeting was attended by East Clare councillors Alan O’Callaghan, Pat Hayes, Joe Cooney, Tony O’Brien and Senator Timmy Dooley.
He explained householders were anxious to learn the precise location of the seven turbines, which looked like they will be placed on the side of the mountain, leaving them very visibly obtrusive.
With another eight turbines proposed in Fahybeg by a different company about a mile away from the Lackareagh Wind Farm, he pointed out there is another wind farm planned in Broadford.
A planning application has been prepared for 19 wind turbines in Caherhurley, and surveys were being undertaken for a fifth possible wind farm in East Clare.
“There are about five or six landowners involved. Some of the landowners are local and some are not. We have a great community here and we always back up each other. I am afraid this wind farm project could split the community, which I don’t want to happen.
“I told the company ‘you are a multinational, you will leave as soon as the project is completed and will not think about what you leave after you, you will leave trouble and rows, you will probably sell the wind farm and move on’.
“We asked for a public meeting and we were told we could get one some time next year. They couldn’t give it to us now because they hadn’t enough surveys done.
“I asked how loud the turbines would be as I was told they would be as loud as a small fridge. “Another woman asked the same question today and was told it depended on the distance a person was from the turbines.
“I have heard the noise from turbines when they cut the atmosphere. We are not getting answers. People need to know what is going on.”
A number of residents complained they didn’t see what they described as a small information notice that was posted on the noticeboard at the back of the local catholic church.
Seán Ryan said he has a son and a daughter who may not get planning permission to build in the locality but it looked like this wind turbine project could get planning approval.
“I will be looking straight up at the wind turbines. You would not put wind turbines on the Cliffs of Moher. People have been refused planning permission in this area because of scenic objections.
“This area is originally almost impossible to get planning permission in. Is there one law for the big developers and another one for the small guy?,” he asked.
Senator Timmy Dooley said locals wanted the company to organise a public meeting in a local hall where representatives would address questions in a town hall setting, which was a reasonable request in view of the scale of this wind turbine project.
“People would like some advance notice of what it is on offer before it goes to planning. It would be nice if the company would come and talk to the people who could accept or reject the proposal.
“I think people are prepared to work with the company. It might suit some people and will not suit others but at least give them an input.
“Companies should be more open and frank with people at an earlier stage.
“Wherever wind turbines go now, the size and scale will be obtrusive, but some landscapes are better able to accommodate them than others.”
Councillor Alan O’Callaghan recalled the need for more information about what is being proposed in the Lackareagh Wind Farm was highlighted at a residents’ meeting on Friday night.
The Kilmurry Councillor said the company was planning to hold another public consultation clinic next month and should have most of the details finalised to deal with residents’ queries at a clinic planned next October before a town hall public meeting before the lodging of a planning application.
He expressed concern about the location of turbines in such a picturesque landscape and the height of the turbines, which could be six times higher than Bunratty Castle.
Residents who gathered to attend the information clinic expressed concern the new turbines would be visually very intrusive.
Tara Cosgrove, who lives in Kilbane, has a number of concerns about the project.
She lives in her husband’s home house where he has resided for 40 years after being brought home as a baby from the maternity hospital.
Ms Cosgrove moved into the dwelling about eight years ago.
“We have a great view out from our kitchen window. It is the first thing anyone says when they walk into our house – your views are incredible.
“We are after spending €5,000 or €6,000 clearing all the trees on our land and now we will have wind turbines stuck up in front of us. Views from the house will be overshadowed by wind turbines.
“Another massive concern is our house is out by the side of the road. In order for the company to get power, they have to dig up the road in front of our house. A huge concern of ours is our foundations because we are right out on the road.”
“If the company has to dig a three or four foot trench, they could damage our house and we have no comeback. Who do we go to?,” she asked.
Resident Aileen Horan stressed householders are not against the principle of wind turbines and acknowledged that more electricity has to be produced from renewable sources such as wind to tackle Climate Change.
However, she believes the local landscape isn’t suited to wind turbines with a maximum tip height of up to 180 metres.
“Kilbane is a beautiful place to live. The wind turbines will be obtrusive and they will be at closer that we thought they would be. I have grown up here all my life and I love where I live.
“We don’t have much in Kilbane but we have beautiful surroundings,” she said.
A spokesperson for EDF Renewables Ireland described Tuesday’s community information clinic as very useful.
“This community clinic was another opportunity for us to meet people from the area along with their locally elected representatives. This was EDF Renewables’ third local clinic and it allowed the project team to explain our plans for Lackereagh Wind Farm to those attending and to listen to their views and feedback.”
“We never anticipated any difficulties at the meeting and that was how it transpired. In accordance with EDF Renewables’ Health & Safety protocols, the relevant authorities were notified that people were planning to gather at the location but we left it up to them to decide what action, if any, to take.”
“EDF Renewables is planning to host further community clinics later this year. As with previous meetings, these will be advertised locally and in The Clare Champion. We also plan to host a public meeting early in the new year following the completion of a number of environmental and engineering surveys.”
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