A project for 22 wind turbines in the heart of the Bride Valley was discussed at Cork County Council on Monday with elected members raising a number of concerns about the project.
Coom Green Energy Park which will be around Ballyhooly, Killavillen and Glenville is a Strategic Infrastructure Development application which means it goes straight to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission but requires a report from the overseeing local authority which in this case is Cork County Council.
Speaking on the matter Fianna Fáil councillor Wiliam O’Leary said while new ways of generating the energy needed to be looked at, meeting energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.
Mr O’Leary reiterated that Ballyhooly, Glenville and Killavullen were all Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
“In the draft county plan we received last week, Glenville was described as valued for agriculture, and the aim of the plan was to preserve unique landscape setting particularly the scenic and amenity values of the Bride valley.
“Killavullen is described as entrenched in the SAC and Ballyhooly is described as somewhere with great environmental interest and importance. Granting permission would bring our own County development plan into serious disrepute in regard to these key areas.”
Mr O’Leary highlighted that in the chief executive’s report there were concerns from the ecologist in relation to the potential impact of the wind farm on the hen harrier and their ability to maintain viable populations.
“Any impact on protected species would be contrary to the provisions of the county development plan, which would be very serious,” the councillor said.
Mr O’Leary also raised the point that the development was based on draft guidelines from 2019 as the guidelines themselves had not been updated since 2006.
“I proposed that we pass a resolution that we fully reject this proposal on the basis of human health, environmental and ecological grounds."
Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn agreed with his colleague, reiterating that the Blackwater valley is renowned for its wildlife.
Mr O’Flynn also said locals living in the area are afraid of the development.
“There are people living there all their lives, they didn’t realise this was coming down the road and they are worried about the height and noise.”
Fine Gael councillor Liam Madden said a similar plan was turned down in 2002 based on visual impact.
Fianna Fáil councillor Sheila O’Callaghan said houses are refused planning in the area because they break the skylines and now they are looking at allowing wind turbines 159m high.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Hayes said the place for wind turbines was offshore and Labour’s James Kennedy said they were out of size and in the wrong place.
Independent councillor Marcia D'Alton said the Bride Valley was an extraordinary delicate area from an ecological point of view and said there was a SAC downstream, which was extremely valuable for a whole range of species.
“There are 23 pages of mitigation measures outlined by the developers. I can’t see how it would be possible to comply and not destroy the surroundings and if it is not possible to be confident that the designated area will not be damaged by the development then it is illegal.
“This is the wrong place.”
The councillors views will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála alongside the Chief Executive’s report.