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Locals blowing cold on windfarm plans

Despite claims by a Cavan-based company that there is "little opposition" to plans to place a windfarm in the Gaybrook area of Mullingar, a number of residents were set to meet in Mullingar this week amid concerns over the proposed development. At the time of writing, the residents were due to meet at the Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar to discuss a host of concerns, ranging from health issues, to impact on the landscape and local property prices.

Despite claims by a Cavan-based company that there is "little opposition" to plans to place a windfarm in the Gaybrook area of Mullingar, a number of residents were set to meet in Mullingar this week amid concerns over the proposed development.

At the time of writing, the residents were due to meet at the Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar to discuss a host of concerns, ranging from health issues, to impact on the landscape and local property prices.

The land over which the twelve turbines which energy firm Galetech intends placing in the Gaybrook area will be spread over 12 square kilometres, and on the lands of eleven different landowners, Galetech's Project Planner, Jennifer Rudden told the Westmeath Examiner this week.

The plans were lodged with the County Council on Friday last and Ms. Rudden said that at the public meeting it hosted in advance of lodging the plans, there had been little opposition from locals.

"Most people were positive enough about the windfarm: a lot of people were curious as to whether there would be noise or shadow flicker, and we explained that everything is well within international standards," she said.

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Despite claims by a Cavan-based company that there is "little opposition" to plans to place a windfarm in the Gaybrook area of Mullingar, a number of residents were set to meet in Mullingar this week amid concerns over the proposed development.

At the time of writing, the residents were due to meet at the Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar to discuss a host of concerns, ranging from health issues, to impact on the landscape and local property prices.

The land over which the twelve turbines which energy firm Galetech intends placing in the Gaybrook area will be spread over 12 square kilometres, and on the lands of eleven different landowners, Galetech's Project Planner, Jennifer Rudden told the Westmeath Examiner this week.

The plans were lodged with the County Council on Friday last and Ms. Rudden said that at the public meeting it hosted in advance of lodging the plans, there had been little opposition from locals.

"Most people were positive enough about the windfarm: a lot of people were curious as to whether there would be noise or shadow flicker, and we explained that everything is well within international standards," she said.

In addition, she continued, landscape studies carried out as part of the planning process showed that while there are points within a radius of the planned development from which some of the turbines can be seen, in most places, they are obscured by the landscape or by vegetation. At most, those who can see them will see only about a quarter of the twelve turbines.

Negotiations began about a year ago with the eleven landowners onto whose farms the turbines are to be placed, and if planning permission comes through, there are agreements in place for the coming thirty years - the recommended timespan, in planning terms, for windfarm developments. The actual area - including access tracks - that the firm will occupy amounts to 17.7 hectares, and the farmers who own the land will be able to continue farming as normal, she said.

The firm's aim is, Ms. Rudden said, to begin construction in 2013. The construction - which will provide employment for approximately 45 people, many from highly-skilled fields such as engineering - will take from six to about nine months, and once construction is completed, there will be 12 people employed to run and maintain the turbines.

"2013 would be the earliest we would begin: we would have to wait until the grid connection comes through," she said, explaining that applications to the ESB to connect and supply into the grid take time, and that there have been other such applications lodged already with the ESB that will have to be processed ahead of the Westmeath one.

"We're looking at 30 MW of capacity into the grid, with each turbine being of 2.5 MW."

Founded in 1999, Galetech's directors are Darren Sherry, Donald Sherry, Herman Busschots and Marleen Vervoorts.

The firm is headquartered at Cootehill in Co. Cavan, and it currently has another application at the planning stage in Cavan for ten turbines, and is in the process of looking at other sites in Monaghan with the planning authority with a view to erecting nine at one location, and five at another. Already up and running since 2005 is a windfarm owned by Galetech at Mountain Lodge in Cavan.

Ms. Rudden said that the area of Mullingar chosen by Gaeltech was ideal for the production of electricity, with wind speeds coming in at 7.8 metres per second. She added that the area had been identified in the Westmeath County Development plan as a potential location for a windfarm.

Galetech maintains that the development would be a €60 million investment, which would inject €15 million into the local economy.

Residents' meeting

But some Gaybrook residents, who claim they never heard anything about the windfarm plans until last week, set about researching windfarms, and called Tuesday night's meeting to raise awareness among members of the community. Tom Wallace was one of several residents who called to Galetech's main operation at Cootehill last week. He also talked with people in the Gaybrook area, saying that most of them "knew nothing" about the plans.

"We're trying to put together a group of people to find out the ins and outs of these windfarms, and we're looking to talk with as many local farmers and residents as possible," Mr. Wallace said.

Referring to the Westmeath County Development Plan, he said that while the Gaybrook area was identified as being "moderately suitable" for wind farms, the plan recommended "cut-away bogs" as the ideal location.

"Right in the middle of residential countryside is not a suitable area," he said.

"One turbine is going to be 780 metres away from my door. I work the land, and I keep horses. The place where I work would be just 300 metres away from the turbines, and I would certainly gallop my horses about 150 metres away from where the turbines would be.

"It would destroy my business. I wouldn't take the risk of galloping horses up there."

Mr. Wallace added that the proposed development would destroy the value of people's houses, and stop the local community from growing. He said that he knew one gentleman in the Gaybrook area who has been trying to sell his house for the past four years.

"At the height of the boom, he went into an auctioneer to talk to him about selling, and the auctioneer laughed at him as soon as he told him where it was," Mr. Wallace said. Another resident, Val Mangan of Vilanstown, Gaybrook, said that in a trip to Cootehill last week, he asked some residents there about their opinions on windfarms. "I asked one woman from Cootehill that if she didn't live in the area, would she live here with the windfarms. 'Not if I got a house for nothing', she told me," said Mr. Mangan.

He said that he surveyed a number of Cootehill residents, and most of them were unhappy with windfarms on the local landscape.

"I don't think anyone has a problem with them as long as they're not built in residential areas," Mr. Mangan said, describing the turbines as "monstrous" in size.

Damien Duncan, another resident of Gaybrook, also visited the Cootehill wind farms. He described them as "a total blight on the countryside".

"I'm not opposed to green energy or wind energy," he said. "But there's a place for everything, and it's not residential countryside."

Other residents have raised concerns over the potential for "Wind Turbine Syndrome" among residents, and the associated health problems, as well as impacts on local wildlife; some have claimed that placing twelve turbines in the area would be akin to placing "twelve lightning conductors" on the local landscape.


Source: http://www.westmeathexamine...

FEB 3 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/24462-locals-blowing-cold-on-windfarm-plans
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