KNOCKNAMONA WINDFARM APPEAL – Please help!!

KNOCKNAMONA WINDFARM APPEAL

The application by Ecopower Development Limited to build twelve monster wind turbines on the scenic Drumhills at Knocknamona caused a huge public outrage in the County of Waterford.

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No less than 270 objections were lodged with the Waterford City & County Council. It was ample evidence that when citizens are provided with information that they need to make a decision, they make their feelings known.

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It is for this very reason that the government, both local and national, deliberately keep its citizens in the dark about their plans to ruin our countryside. It is for that same reason that community groups not only inform their members, but each other, about the executive shenanigans being cooked up in boardrooms and government offices everywhere.

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Unfortunately Ecopower did not take proper notice of the level and intensity of public anger and went ahead and appealed WC&CC refusal to An Bord Pleanala (ABP). Perhaps in the light of previous decisions they are confident that the ABP is firmly in their pocket?

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We need as many people as possible to clearly tell the ABP that this is not so, and that public objections must be listened to when it comes to matters of the environment and the health of our citizens.

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I would ask all of you reading this to please apply to be an ‘observer’ to the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing that may take place in Dungarvan?

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It is important to realise that even if you did not object to the original planning application by Ecopower, you can still apply to be an observer at the ABP hearing.

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It would be great if as many people as possible were to become ‘observers’ so that An Bord Pleanala is in no doubt how important a decision the citizens of Waterford, and indeed citizens around the country who treasure our natural heritage, consider this application and that they are concerned by this threat to our environment and the people who call it home.

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The deadline for this is 17th Nov.

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WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO (PLEASE!!!):

1. Send a letter and include your own name and address – which must be clearly stated.

2. Add the appeal reference number: PL93.244006 at the top of your letter

3. Send in to An Bord Pleanala’s address (below) by the 17th of November and you need to send in a fee of €50 by postal order or cheque made payable to An Bord Pleanala with your letter. It is permissible for a group of people to all put their names on one letter, which means you can split the fee between you.

The Secretary,
An Bord Pleanála,
64 Marlborough Street,
Dublin 1

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WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

1. You should request an Oral Hearing on the grounds that there are important issues of public interest raised in this appeal that can be better addressed by a public oral hearing.

In particular the proper interpretation of the development plan and the need to ensure public participation and consultation in environmental matters arising from the Aarhus Convention must be stressed in outlining the need for a proper public hearing.

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Then please raise the following points in your own words:

1. The works and structures necessary for the connection of the proposed development to the electricity grid have not been included within the application. This is a fundamental flaw in the nature and description of the development and therefore the entirety of the project cannot be assessed. It is not possible to accurately assess the environmental impact of the development without having regard to the ensuing impacts from the consequent works for the connection to the electricity grid. Furthermore proximity to the grid is a requirement of development plan policy for wind energy development.

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2. The height and scale of the development. The height of the wind turbines are up to 126m, which is higher than the Dublin “Spike” and is more than twice as high as Liberty Hall!. Therefore the height of the structures are more imposing than any other building structures in the country. However, these monsters are not buildings or landmarks to define our environment but elements of industrial infrastructure inserted on the landscape in rural areas. To a large extent the policy and guidelines in relation to wind energy have failed to grasp the reality of the height of the structures. Forget about monster pylons (which will always follow a wind farm),  – these huge turbines will make them appear small in comparison.

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3. There is an inherent conflict between the County Development Plan zoning objectives for the land for agricultural use, the heritage and environmental and landscape objectives of the plan and the identification of the subject lands as a strategic area in the context of the County Wind Energy Strategy. It just not make sense to promote industries like eco-tourism and food-tourism in a county crowded by monster wind turbines.

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4. The location of the proposed development is not proximate to the National Grid and does not satisfy the requirements of the policy objective of the development plan to minimise the length and visual impact of Grid conections. The proposed development would therefore materially contravene policy INF 26 of the development plan to minimise the length and visual impact of National Grid connections. When one considers the stunning beauty of the area, then the impact of these industrial structures with their cables spewing out like entrails is too shocking to contemplate.

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5. The Environmental Impact Statement put together by Ecopower is a joke, and a bad joke at that. It would be kind to say that it does not provide adequate scientific evidence, or information, upon which the Competent Authority can make a reliable determination as to whether or not the wind farm is likely to have significant effects on the integrity of the relevant Natura 2000 sites under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). the Drumhills forms part of and/or lies immediately adjacent to a number of SACs and SAPs. In other words, they don’t seem to give a damn about the contaminated groundwater, the destruction of natural habitats and indigenous bushes and trees, and the death of hundreds of birds.

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The recent High Court decision of Kelly vs. An Bord Pleanala (JR 2013 No. 802), where it was observed that an Appropriate Assessment:
o Must identify, in the light of the best scientific knowledge in the field, all aspects of the development project which can, by itself or in combination with other plans or projects, affect the European site in the light of its conservation objectives. This clearly requires both examination and analysis.

o Must contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions and may not have lacunae or gaps. The requirement for precise and definitive findings and conclusions appears to require analysis, evaluation and decisions. Further, the reference to findings and conclusions in a scientific context requires both findings following analysis and conclusions following an evaluation each in the light of the best scientific knowledge in the field.

o May only include a determination that the proposed development will not adversely affect the integrity of any relevant European site where upon the basis of complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions made the Board decides that no reasonable scientific doubt remains as to the absence of the identified potential effects.

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There is nothing definitive about the Assessment accompanying the original application for planning permission. It has more holes in it than Irish Water’s Manifesto.

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A surprising omission from the original Assessment was that there was no mention of the presence of the Hen Harrier over the general area of the planning site, neither did it mention the fact that Whooper Swans fly over and adjacent to the general area of the planning site to/from their feeding grounds and roosting grounds on the River Blackwater. The flock in question is generally located in the Blackwater Callows SPA (Blackwater SAC and pNHA) that extends to the Camphire marshlands and beyond into the Bricky Valley. The Hen Harrier is a rare Bird of Prey, found on the uplands during the breeding season throughout the spring and summer, and on the lowlands during the autumn and winter. Its breeding distribution has declined over the years. In many areas where it was once common e.g. Wicklow, it is now extinct because of habitat loss such as afforestation. The reason that the Drumhills and surrounding areas are so important to the Hen Harrier is because of the special mix of farmland and bogs. This provides the Hen Harrier with the habitat which it needs to live. The Hen Harrier is an endangered species, with the national breeding survey of 2005 confirming just 132 breeding pairs, so the Hen Harrier is rarer than the Corncrake.
The huge blades of these things would decimate the local population in a matter of months. Once a bird is extinct, that is that – there is no way to compensate that fact.

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In an August 2014 survey on collision fatalities at Lisheen Windfarm in Tipperary, Ecology Ireland reported:

“Collision risk for birds and Volant mammals with wind turbines has been the subject of a considerable amount of scientific research. Since the development of commercial wind turbines there has been an awareness that birds may collide with roating turbine blades(Zimmerling et al, 2013). Many of the mass mortality events have been recorded at poorly sited and designed wind farms on known migration routes for songbirds and raptor species (http://goo.gl/dMOZnr). Species that are long-lived and have low productivity (such as many birds of prey)are at higher risk of population level impact through individual losses than short-lived and highly productive bird species.”

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6. The awful noise caused by the enormous blades. This noise causes sleep deprivation and sleep disorders; hearing problems; migraines; mental health issues; loss of appetite and the list goes on. Have a look at http://windnoise.info/?lat=52.06&long=-7.77&zoom=12

to see a measurement of the noise levels of the two turbines already up.

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I could go on but there is no time. Please could you send in your letters setting out your observations as to why you are simply not prepared to allow these huge, noisy and unsightly structures to ruin our beautiful countryside. The deadline is 17th November 2014.

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from practice in 2002 to take up a full-time lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). He is an accredited and practising mediator and is busy writing a book, with Dr Sinead Conneely, on Mediation in Ireland. His current interest is Ireland’s energy policy and its impact on the people and the environment. He is also researching the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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