LOCALS opposed to a €30m windfarm project on the southern slopes of Gougane Barra have said they will pursue all avenues – including crowdfunding – to stop it going ahead.
An Bord Pleanála granted a 10-year planning permission last week to Wingleaf Ltd to construct seven wind turbines in Curraglass, Derreendonee, and Cappaboy Beg, despite the fact that Cork County Council had already refused planning permission for the development.
An Bord Pleanála said the turbines would not detract from the existing character of the area, or undermine the setting of Gougane Barra. The turbines would be 178m high, on elevated ground, and would be just under 2km from the iconic setting of St Finbarr’s Oratory in Gougane Barra.
The oratory and surrounding lake, with adjacent forest park, is one of the most photographed scenes in Ireland, and a popular wedding location.
Neil Lucey of The Gougane Barra Hotel told The Southern Star that people in the area are ‘appalled’ that the majority view was railroaded by a ‘small board’ in Dublin.
‘Cork County Council rejected the proposal and even An Bord Pleanála’s own senior inspector Kevin Moore rejected it. Yet somehow a minority can say yes to the proposal which is the most upsetting part of this saga,’ said Neil.
Neil said the reaction they have received from people, from both home and abroad, has been one of ‘horror’ and they have been inundated with messages and phone calls since the decision.
‘Gougane Barra means so much to so many, and while we know the turbines won’t be in the valley, we have six or seven windfarms dominating the upper Lee Valley already. Cork County Council originally refused the planning on the strength of the scenic area and Gougane Barra is more than just the island and lake, it’s also the mountains and it has a full scenic value.’
Neil, along with Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, are working to submit a judicial review on the decision.
‘We will be getting a solicitor and barrister to look at all the documents to see if it is worth progressing and that costs about €3,000.’
With costs expected to be in the region of €90,000 for both the preparation of a file, and proceeding to the High Court, he said they will probably look to a crowdfunding website to fund their campaign.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan raised the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday evening and emphasised to the minister the tourism value and potential in the area as he believes tourism didn’t figure at all in the board’s decision.
‘We have a tremendous opportunity locally from a tourism point of view, and I would have expected Gougane to be a strong part of that.
‘It is not suitable for a windfarm,’ said Deputy Moynihan.
‘You can’t create another Gougane, but there are so many other places where you can build a windfarm.’
While recognising the need for alternative energy like windfarms, he said there are places more suited to them and he said Gougane Barra is not one.