Plans for a solar farm in east Cork are being challenged by residents who claim it will lead to the industrialisation of a rural setting, writes Seán McCárthaigh
An Bord Pleánala has received three appeals against the decision of Cork County Council to grant a 10-year permission for a solar farm between Knockraha and Leamlara. Several residents, including the owners of a dog kennels, are opposed to plans by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ireland to develop a solar farm on a 48-hectare site in the townlands of Ballyvatt and Clash which will provide energy for 7,650 households. The land is owned by Frank O’Driscoll of Rathcooney, Glanmire.
Martin and Brigitte Noonan, the owners of A1-K9 Holistic Dog Training Centre and Boarding Kennels at Meeleen, which is near the development, said they are objecting because of concerns over “noise pollution, threat to safety, health concerns, damage to roads and industrialisation of the area.”
They claimed none of 37 conditions imposed by Cork County Council in its decision to approve the project address their concerns.
“Our greatest fear is that the noise created by passing heavy plant and machinery during construction and noise created during operations of the solar farm will destroy our business and livelihood and with that our health,” said Mr Noonan.
He claimed conditions relating to noise were far more stringent for his kennels than for the solar farm.
The Noonans said there was also a concern that the development could seriously pollute groundwater and private wells in the area.
Another Knockraha resident, Andrew Nixon, said the solar farm would be one of the largest in the country and was not suited to a rural location. He claimed the site would become “a 119-acre forest of galvanised steel, aluminium and glass.”
“Some people call this progress, I consider it as nothing short of rural vandalism on a grand scale,” Mr Nixon said.
Lightsource said the site was chosen because it is flat and well-screened by hedgerows. The company said the scale of the project is directly related to proposed subsidies which are anticipated will be provided by the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment as part of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.
Lightsource, which has built 200 solar farms in Britain and Northern Ireland, says it engaged in “comprehensive” consultation with local TDs and councillors, community groups and people living near the proposed solar farm.
The Belfast-based company said feedback to the project was “predominantly positive.” It also said it had responded in a timely and positive manner to any areas of concern raised by locals.
However, Tony and Sheila Ryan from Leamlara, who have also lodged an appeal, said “surprise and puzzlement” was the reaction of local people to the project.
They claim the facility is four times the size of ones being planned elsewhere.
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