Coillte have been criticised for the manner in which they have prepared a planning application for a wind farm in East Clare which if developed as planned could yield a €10m contribution for the local area.
Plans are to be lodged with An Bord Pleánala at the end of June for 19 wind turbines on a 750 hectare site. First announced in December 2018, the cost is estimated to be around €150m to develop in what could become the largest wind farm in the country.
Located on the slopes of Slieve Bearnagh close to Bodyke, the proposal is seeking 30 years permission for the Carrownagowan Wind Farm.
Members of the public in the nearby vicinity have received a document of the plan as a result of consultation evenings being postponed due to Coronavirus.
The proposed wind farm is located within forested lands, in an upland area (approx. 200-420m above sea level), on the north- western slopes of Slieve Bernagh mountain, approximately 4 km northeast of the village of Broadford, 7km north-west of Killaloe and 2.5 km south of the village of Bodyke, at its closest point. Lough Derg lies approximately 4km to the east of the proposed development area.
€10m is to be made available to the local community as a result of the development, the document from Coillte outlined.
100 construction jobs have been forecast with the document calculating a rates contribution of between €638,400 and €1.3m to Clare County Council.
Speaking at the May meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) maintained the correspondence between Coillte and Clare County Council “should be put out in the public interest”. He criticised the State forestry agency’s lack of consultation, “We are supposed to the be the voices of the people in the Municipal District and we don’t know about it”.
He felt a briefing on the infrastructural challenges the windfarm may be bring should be held. “It makes a mockery of public representation when bodies like this don’t feel obliged to brief us. This isn’t me making a public statement against wind farms, I’m fully aware we have to meet climate change targets but there is a process and we need to be made aware when meetings are taking place,” Cllr Hayes added. “I am not saying anything untoward is going on, this is something that has a major implication for the people of the Killaloe MD, the process has been completely wrong, it needs to be addressed”.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe MD, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) outlined that councillors did receive “a glossy document” via email ten days before the public did, “it doesn’t make much of a difference but we did get the document before it came in the post”.
He proceeded to read an email from the project manager of the site which outlined their intention to lodge plans in the coming weeks. Burke asked Cllr Hayes if he received the same email, “I did but it doesn’t matter, it is a substantial project with major financial implications for this Council,” came the response.
Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) told the meeting he had been aware of plans for the last year and a half, “it is only at the consultation stage”. He said landowners within certain proximity of the development “have been called in for a number of consultations”. The O’Callaghans Mills native stressed that “the people within the catchment area were the first to be contacted”. He advised that a planned public consultation evening for the public was cancelled because of COVID-19.
A briefing could be requested, Cllr Burke told Hayes. “The ship seems to have sailed, I want to know the implications, I would have thought the least elected representatives would get is a briefing,” the Chair of the Rural Development SPC replied and noted the amount of consultation with the public prior to the construction of wind farms in Kilmaley.
Acting senior executive officer in the Municipal District, Morgan Lahiffe told councillors that will make queries to see if a briefing can be held. “We need to get clarification to ensure we’re not getting too involved in the process,” he added. Cllr Cooney then requested if the consultation evening would be fixed, “it is important for the public that it does go ahead”.