Residents voice range of concerns at packed public meeting this week in Gneeveguilla
A planning application to put in place 14 ‘mammoth wind turbines’, earmarked for between the villages of Gneeveguilla and Ballydesmond, has received over 50 formal objections along with one group objection which has over 180 signatures.
A fourth public meeting was held on Monday night in Gneeveguilla which received very strong local backing that locals did not want the turbines “in any shape or form”.
Kerry County Council has received a planning submission which comprises of over 1,300 pages from Silver Birch Renewables Ltd to erect the turbines which would extend across 15 individual landholdings in the townlands of Tooreenagarriv, Ballynahulla, Barna, Knocknageeha, Lisheen, Reanasup and Reaboy.
The wind turbine company is hoping to secure planning for two turbines in Barna, one in Knocknageeha, two in Reanasup, one in Lisheen, three in Reaboy and five in Ballynahulla.
However, it is the sheer size of the proposed turbines which is sending a shiver down the spines of residents as Silver Birch Renewables Ltd hopes to ‘secure planning for 10 years for the development of the 14 wind turbines which would have a rotor diameter of up to 120 metres and a blade tip height of up to 150 metres above ground level’.
There is also planning sought for two permanent meteorological masts and two medium voltage substations, and one high voltage substation, and 13 new site entrances consisting of seven new and six upgraded.
On the Silver Birch Renewables Ltd website, there are more than 17 letters of consent signed by landowners based in Reanasup, Lisheen, Knocknageeha, Reaboy, Ballinahulla in Ballydesmond, Knockrour East, Scartaglin and Tooreencahill stating that they are giving their permission to Silver Birch Renewables Ltd to make their planning application for the development of the windfarm on their lands.
In one such letter, it is stated that the ‘compensation package will be €1,000 on signing (this) letter and €1,000 per year (index linked) from first exporting the power for the lifetime of the windfarm (approx 20 years).’
The development land earmarked for the turbines will be leased from the landowners – including Coillte. In November, 2016, Collette Hunt, for and on behalf of Coillte Teoranta, wrote to Kerry County Council where she confirmed that negotiations are ‘at an advanced stage with Saorgus Energy Ltd/Silverbirch Renewables Ltd’ in respect of an option for a proposed windfarm to be located on lands which include lands owned by Coillte.
Some landowners also signed further consent forms that the wind turbines ‘can be located within 2.5 rotor diameters of their land boundary and the proposed rotor diameter could be 120 metres depending on the suitability of the turbine for the site/location’. The bulk of the letters of consent were signed by landowners in March 2017, but others were also signed between August and September 2015.
Letters of objection state strongly that, should the wind turbines be granted planning, it would lead to degradation of the region as well as a huge environmental impact, and lead to the decrease in the price of property as well as health and safety risks. The fear of Japanese Knotweed further spreading was also cited along with the possibility of another recurrence of the Knocknageeha 1896 landslide. Other factors cited included damage to flora and fauna.
At the public meeting, Cllr Brendan Cronin (Ind) said he strongly backed the local campaign, ‘Sliabh Luachra Windfarm’ and residents who objected, and said he has seen the consequences of what wind turbines do a to region. “This has a devastating effect on families and it splits communities without question. It’s a huge problem,” he said.
He said to have wind turbines in Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla of “such a monstrous size” was even difficult to contemplate. He also criticised the lack of public consultation by Silver Birch Renewables Ltd and said it was “very poor”.
Thomas Fitzpatrick and Shaun O’Rourke, who are both homeowners who say they will be greatly affected, said they had contacted Silver Birch Renewables Ltd twice to attend the public meeting and they failed to get a response. Mr Rourke said they had only become aware of the planning application two weeks ago when Mr Fitzpatrick happened to see the planning application and they, along with other residents, were greatly on the back-foot to launch their own campaign and lodge their objections as the clock was ticking for the final date of submissions to Kerry County Council.
The vast 1,385 page planning application on the KCC website also includes an Environmental Impact Statement, undertaken by Malachy Walsh & Partners, for Silver Birch Renewables Ltd, where it is stated that no significant negative impacts are envisaged in relation to the human environment and noise and shadow flicker will be controlled by technology at source, ensuring acceptable levels are not exceeded. It also states that habitat loss as a result of the proposed development is not considered significant and no rare or protected plant species were detected within the proposed development site.
Regarding noise, it is stated that the ‘relevant noise thresholds set out in the wind farm planning guidelines will be achieved at all locations.’
The Corkman sought a comment from the community liaison officer of Silver Birch Renewables Ltd, who is only contactable via email, regarding a right of reply to the flurry of residents’ concerns and views. The Corkman received an email from the unnamed community liaison officer to state they had noted the query and would respond in writing shortly. At the time of going to press a reply was not received.