A company planning to build a 22-turbine windfarm on a site once earmarked for a €48m municipal landfill has received a setback.
Cork county councillors yesterday voted against allowing a portion of local authority-owned land at Bottlehill, 19km north of Cork city, to be used to build some of the turbines proposed by Brookfield Renewable Ireland.
More than 80 people held a protest outside Cork County Hall to highlight their concerns about plans to build the windfarm, which they say will affect rural communities including Whitechurch, Carrignavar, Glenville, Killavullen, and Mourneabbey. Members of the Nagle View Turbine Awareness (NVTA) group say they are particularly concerned about the potential of excessive noise emitting from the turbines which will be 169m high, 2.5 times the height of County Hall.
Fianna Fail councillor William O’Leary proposed that councillors vote against the project.
“No further development of windfarms should take place until new national guidelines on windfarms are published,” he said. “The concerns of the residents are genuine.”
His party colleague, Gearóid Murphy, wanted a deferral of the vote, saying it is premature to make a decision until the guidelines are published, which is expected to happen in the next couple of months.
Independent councillor Frank Roche said he has spoken to many of the protestors in their own homes and seen some “crying” at the prospect of having a major windfarm on their doorsteps.
Fellow Independent Marcia D’Alton said there needs to be more discussion between councillors and officials over the future of the landfill site, in which they have already invested a huge amount of taxpayers’ money.
Fine Gael councillor Sinead Sheppard said “residents are genuinely fearful” and they have to be supported by councillors.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the council is hoping to utilise the Bottlehill site and the Brookfield project “would generate significant revenue” for the council. He said the developers will probably end up paying the council €7.5m over the next 30 years for using the site.
Councillors voted down the plan by 44 votes to three, with six abstentions.
After the meeting, NVTA spokeswoman Amy Connolly said the decision is welcome but acknowledged that isn’t the end of the matter. She pointed out the final decision on the overall Brookfield plan will be up to Bord Pleanála, rather than the county council as the project has ‘strategic infrastructure’ designation.
Ms Connolly said NVTA has more than 600 members and they intend to fight against the project, including seeking a judicial review in the High Court.
“We can fund that kind of challenge. We have already started fundraising and will continue with it,” she said.
Ms Connolly also maintained that no decision on such plans should be made until the new national wind energy guidelines are published.