Serious concerns over the possibility of 32 wind turbines being erected in the Knockanore area of West Waterford were expressed by councillors at the March Dungarvan/Lismore District meeting on Monday last.
Cllr James Tobin was the first councillor to raise the issue – his question to Jim O’Mahony, senior planner for Waterford County Council was 'how long can a temporary mast for analysing wind power be in place for in an area'. “I’d like to know what date did they tell the council that they were putting up this temporary mast and surely they would have to say how long they were putting it up for,” said Cllr Tobin.
The question came following a letter received by Cllr Tobin from a company who said that they intend to erect a temporary mast in the Knockanore area to assess wind power in the area. “They don’t have to apply for planning. They just wrote a letter to tell us they were putting it up. I’m sure they wrote the same letter to the planning authority. At least they told us in the letter that they were notifying the planning in Waterford,” Cllr Tobin added.
Senior planner for Waterford City and County Council Jim O’Mahony, said they are aware of a request to put up a wind monitoring mast. "You can put up a wind test rig up to 80 metres in height at a location to test the wind and to the best of my recollection, is (allowed to remain in place) in excess of a year. I think something in the region of about 15-18 months that they can keep that in place.”
Cllr Séamus O’Donnell supported the concerns expressed by Cllr Tobin about the possibility of a wind farm in Knockanore. “I have information that there is 32 windmills going in above in Knockanore and I have that from the dog's mouth, and I know exactly what I’m on about,” said Cllr O’Donnell.
The concerns were further driven by the feelings of powerlessness expressed by the councillors when it comes to planning applications submitted for windfarms.
“We’re powerless and it’s as well to tell the public that we as councillors are powerless, and coming to us and asking us to object is a waste of time because councillors have no power whatsoever,” said Cllr James Tobin.
Cllr Tobin went on to explain that An Bord Pleanala seem willing to grant applications for windfarms despite the fact that the public don’t want them. Cllr O’Donnell agreed saying: “Bord Pleanala would want to cop on. They should be scrapped by right because they’ve too much power and that’s the long and short of it.”
The senior planner for Waterford County Council responded to the heated debate by stating that there is no application for a wind farm 'at the moment'. "I want to make that clear,” he said, going on to explain that the council are working off of the 2006 guidelines for renewable energy and that they are still waiting on new guidelines to be issued by the government.
Cllr Doocey asked that a letter be written to the Department for the Environment and a request be made that the new guidelines be issued as soon as possible. Director of services, Ivan Grimes, agreed to write and send the letter on behalf of the members.
Mr O’Mahony reiterated numerous times that there is no live application for a windfarm and criticised the councillors saying 'it's scaremongering that’s happening here'.
Cllr Tobin retaliated and said that people don’t come along and erect a mast to test the wind, and they don’t send out their PR people knocking on doors unless they have a valid reason to. While he understands that there is no live planning in place, he was nevertheless adamant that 'something is afoot'.
“It’s not a live planning because it isn’t in – but it’s on its way, I can assure you,” he said.