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Concern over fast track for Mushera windfarm project

Worries that 19-turbine project will cause noise pollution and property devaluation

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Mushera

Mushera

Mushera

Concerned locals in the Ballinagree area near Millstreet have launched a campaign to stop a new windfarm project proposed for Mushera, which they fear will be fast-tracked through the planning process.

The concern centres on the proposal from Coillte and Brookfield, a Canadian company which has an office in Cork, to develop Ballinagree Wind Farm, a 19-turbine wind-energy project at Mushera.

The wind turbines will be 185 metres high at the tip of the blade when it's fully vertical. The development also consists of cabling and an electrical substation.

Mushera Wind Aware is the name of the group, which is currently being organised online due to COVID-19 restrictions. One of its members, John O'Sullivan, spoke to The Corkman about their immediate concern about the project.

"At present they have lodged a pre-application Consultation with An Bord Pleanála, as they wish to have the project designated as a Strategic Infrastructural Development, which would mean that future planning applications would go to An Bord Pleanála and not Cork County Council," he said.

"At the pre-application consultation stage, An Bord Pleanála will not accept submissions from concerned citizens.

"We must wait until the planning application proper has been lodged - whether that will be to An Bord Pleanála or Cork County Council remains to be seen."

In a statement, the developers for Balliagree Windfarm said they had a pre-consultation meeting with representatives of Cork County Council and An Bórd Pleanála in March.

"The project may fall under the following description as defined in the 7th Schedule to the 2000 Planning and Development Act (as amended) which would mean it may be considered Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) by An Bord Pleanála as its current output could be in the region of 100 MW," it said.

According to legislation, if a windfarm has an output of more than 50 megawatts, it could be considered to be a strategic infrastructural project.

"Cork County Council remain a primary stakeholder in this project regardless of the route it takes in the Planning System and the project team will continue to consult with them throughout the process," the developers insisted.

Among the objections of Mushera Wind Aware are concerns regarding what they say is the lack of local consultation by the windfarm developers as well as other issues. The group accused Brookfield and Coillte of operating under a 'cloak of secrecy'

"By their own brochure they began general ecological studies in the summer of 2017, yet it was two years later before the local community were aware of the extent of what was going on. At that stage the 'local landowner discussions' were concluded.

"This was a clear attempt to present the community with a "fait accompli" with no consultation whatsoever."

The group believes that the development will lead to the devaluation of land and property: "On average, properties in proximity to wind farms lose considerable value and often become unsaleable.

"On top of this, the noise and flicker pollution often make them uninhabitable...Many families across Ireland have had to leave their homes due to wind farm developments."

The statement from the windfarm developers insisted that their approach was about more and earlier consultation, but pointed out that their intention to go door to door had been thwarted by the COVID-19 restrictions.

"Our primary focus is on residents of houses within 2km of the project site as we firmly believe it is important that we are able to give dedicated time to the residents of this area," it said.

To date, two newsletters have been distributed to local residents, and all information about the project has been posted to a website, www.ballinagreewindfarm.ie, the developers said, adding that a third newsletter was in the process of being delivered in the coming weeks.

Corkman