Close to 300 concerned residents gathered in the function room at Lawless’s Hotel on Thursday last, united in their goal to put a stop to wind farm plans in their rural communities.
Hosted by South Wicklow Wind Action Group (SWWAG), the meeting was convened in protest against the current ABO Wind Ireland Ltd application seeking permission to erect Ballymanus Wind Farm. The application is seeking permission to build up to eleven turbines at various locations across south Wicklow, with each turbine 150 metres in height.
A previous application was overwhelmingly rejected by the community over two years ago with over 400 submissions lodged with Wicklow County Council.
‘What we have is what we hold,’ SWWAG PRO Richard More O’Ferrall warned those present.
Referring to the company’s previously denied application, Mr More O’Ferrall said: ‘this time it is different’.
‘This time they have been working very hard to overcome the issues raised two years ago. The community told them to go away but they have come back,’ he said.
SWWAG member Jack Lynch said that the group ‘is on the same mission as they were two years ago’ and are even more determined. He described the company’s reference to community engagement as ‘bogus claims’ and said that it was ‘a scoping exercise to tick a box’.
He said that the people of Aughrim, Annacurra, Preban, Tinahely and many townlands in between face the same fears and feel exactly the same way about having 150 metre turbines erected near their homes.
‘The 600 metre set-back distance is still far too close where the health of residents is concerned. They would still be heard and suffered. They have no idea how health will suffer if people were surrounded by these 24 hours a day.’
Mr Lynch also raised the issue of risk to the water supply and said that the amount required to develop 11 turbines would certainly have an impact on the water supply of residents.
‘We don’t trust ABO to manage this risk. People have invested heavily in their homes. Some have just barely squeezed out of negative equity and if these turbines go up, nobody will be able to sell or buy a house in the area. It will stagnate. We live in the Garden of Ireland and we are very proud of that.
We believe we have the real gem in the Garden here and we must protect it,’ he said.
SWWAG chairman John O’Driscoll, who founded the group four years ago, appeared to verbalise the feelings of many (such was the round of applause he received) when he said: ‘We don’t want them [the turbines] anywhere and it’s a load of crap about turbine height. We don’t want them – end of story.
This is the Garden of Ireland. Have they no cop on?’