A MACROOM fruit farmer, backed by friends and members of his community, stopped a windfarm subcontractor from joining mains cables to the national grid on Tuesday.
Joe Franz, a German national, who established the Fruit Forest Farm at Carrigdangan, Kilmichael, Macroom in 1987, was joined by as many as 20 of his friends and neighbours all of whom worked together to prevent the connection from happening.
Mr Franz told The Southern Star: ‘We don’t want the development because it would change the landscape irrevocably. We are afraid we won’t be able to sleep with the constant noise and disturbance and that we will be forced to give up our property.’
A planning application for the five-turbine windfarm at Carrigdangan was submitted to Cork County Council in 2015 by Keel Energy Ltd and Mr Franz said 61 submissions were made requesting that planning be denied.
Cork County Council refused the application by Keel Energy Ltd on February 22nd 2016. One of the grounds for their decision was that the windfarm would be located in ‘a permanent open location’ and would be at variance with the Council’s stated policy to protect the visual and scenic amenities of the area.
The Council’s decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala. The board overturned the Council’s decision and granted planning permission on October 28th 2016.
The farmer said the gardaí arrived at the scene several times on Tuesday, June 2nd, but he said they were there merely to ‘keep the peace’ because this is a legal matter, outside of their jurisdiction.
Clonakilty-based Supt Ger O’Mahony confirmed that the gardaí were in attendance to ‘monitor a protest in the area.’
Mr Franz alleged that he and his supporters were ‘pushed away from the entrance to the place where the underground cables need to be joined.’
‘The real issue,’ he said, ‘is that we have to continue to maintain a presence here to prevent this development from going ahead.’
In order to do that, he and his partner, Diana Kuehnal, have, for the last fortnight, lived on the side of the road, on their own property, in a tent and sheep trailer as a means of being ever-vigilant.
The owner of the fruit farm claimed: ‘The nearest turbine of the not-yet-finished windfarm is 775m from our house, and the very large substation is only 300m from our house.’
A neighbour and friend, who is also a member of Macroom and District Environmental Group, Paul Lynch, also spoke to The Southern Star. He said: ‘Today, they tried to force through this project without local consent, but community solidarity prevailed and the workers have left.’
Mr Lynch said he was of the opinion that this is ‘an example of doing renewable energy badly’. And he added: ‘We urgently need a better model for development that protects people and the environment.’
The Southern Star contacted Michael Murnane, who is believed to be a director of the company, Keel Energy Ltd, and requested a comment, but none was available before going to press.