Defiant landowners block ESB in wind farm pylon row

A TENSE stand-off began yesterday between landowners and the ESB over plans to erect power lines for a privately-owned wind farm.

The situation escalated as the Government announced plans to allow wind farms in scenic areas nationwide.

As Environment Minister Dick Roche unveiled new planning guidelines, which include the fast-tracking of developments with more than 50 turbines, 40 landowners in Bantry in West Cork blocked access to lands to ESB trucks.

The workers were due to erect poles to carry a power line from a planned wind farm. The planned 14-kilometre line is scheduled to run from a site owned by Ballybane Windfarms Ltd near Drimoleague to a substation at Ballylickey near Bantry.

But, up to 30 landowners around Bantry, stood in front of ESB Networks trucks and diggers from early morning to block access to their land.

Gardaí were called to the farm of Joe Burke, spokesman for Bantry Concerned Action Group (BCAG).

And in a coordinated move, dozens of other landowners in the townlands of Colomane and Raheen backed his stance.

The ESB has a court order allowing it onto the land to erect the power line for a private contractor.

But Mr Burke remained defiant last night.

“They’re not getting on to our land. If it’s jail I have to go, so be it. There’ll be more behind me.”

Mr Burke, who has two young children, James, aged four, and Daniel, aged seven said local objections were based purely on health grounds. “Our children are more important than money,” he said.

The ESB has been negotiating with landowners for almost three years.

Ballybane Windfarms Ltd had offered to lay 4kms of the 14kms underground.

But the company withdrew an offer of improved compensation for the landowners before Christmas and withdrew from negotiations.

The ESB subsequently secured court orders against the objecting landowners.

In a statement last night, the ESB said it had no option but to complete its mandatory obligation to provide network connections.

“Having exhausted consultation and legal avenues, ESB staff moved yesterday to complete the work, in accordance with the recent High Court judgement.”

A spokesman said the negotiations would continue.

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