Draft City and County Development Plan,
Kilkenny County Council,
Reference: Kilkenny City and County Draft Development Plan 2021-2027, Wind Strategy
I, Mark Anthony McGrath am writing in objection to the proposal to change designated land in our community to “Acceptable in Principle” for wind energy and ask that any decision on the matter should be subject to considerable further consultation.
According to the Kilkenny City and County Development Plan 2014-2020, the area including Glenbower Wood/Mullenbeg, Garryduff Wood, Blackbog, Owning Hill and through the Lingaun Valley ‘is rich in heritage features and has a relationship with the highly prominent feature of Slievenamon mountain .SouthTipperary have designated the border areas unsuitable for wind farm development. It is considered that this is an appropriate designation.’
I am resident in Templeorum village in South Kilkenny and to my mind this area remains rich in heritage.
The Leac na Scal dolmen and and Knockroe passage tomb are among Ireland’s most significant and spectacular Neolitic monuments, Kilkiernan and Ahenny High Crosses are internationally renowned examples of early Christian art. Further examples are too numerous to mention here.
The area is also important for leisure and outdoor activities, which have come into prominence in this period of lockdowns. The Mountain Grove, Glenbower Wood, Corbally Hill, Garryduff Hill, Tullaghought, Windgap and Castlemorris looped walks and the Slate Quarries are frequented by ever increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists who enjoy the spectacular views through the Comeraghs, Slievenamon and the South Kilkenny Hills themselves.. The South Leinster way passes through the Corbally and Mountain Grove areas and with its proximity to the enormously popular Carrick on Suir/Clonmel Blueway and the Waterford Greenway soon to be expanded to New Ross, its relatively quiet network of roads with low traffic volume and the further potential of its woodlands, the entire area could benefit from development of further areas and facilities for cyclists walkers and eco- tourists.
As residents of this area we are privileged to enjoy a rich and diverse range of bird, wildlife, flora and fauna. The Mountain Grove is host to the extremely rare Early Purple Orchid and several other protected plants flourish in the area. There is a good population of Pine Martens which also enjoy protective status. We regularly see buzzards flying overhead and recently my 7 year old daughter and I encountered a Hen Harrier on the roadway which had been clipped and stunned by a car, which we successfully brought to nearby woodlands by which time it had recovered enough to fly away into the trees. On a regular basis we see foxes, badgers, squirrels, barn and long eared owls, hedgehogs etc.
The woodlands especially those with remaining pockets of broadleaf trees such as Garryduff, Mountain Grove and Glenbower, alongside the existing upland scrub and non-intensive and generally sympathetic farming practices make for significant wildlife corridors and should not only be protected but should be developed further rather than being placed under severe threats from inappropriate industrial development.
I have huge concerns over the possibility that Kilkenny Co.Council would alter the status of this area to ‘Acceptable in Principle’ and thus abdicate responsibility for future planning and protection of this beautiful and heritage-rich area.
The majority of people in the area were not even aware of this process until recent days largely due to the level 5 covid restrictions which means that people are not hearing news by word of mouth as they should. The draft development plan chapter 11 online which deals with renewable energy has only a couple of paragraphs and a very poor quality map relating to wind energy.
From the February 4th Draft Consultation climate zoom meeting video recording it is stated by the executive planner with Kilkenny Council that specific areas of the county had been selected as being excluded from windfarm suitability due to Landscape Sensitivity by CAAS consultancy, an external private company. Are we to understand that CAAS decided that the entire area of South Kilkenny under discussion was no longer unsuitable for windfarm development. Has Conor Skehan the director or any of the employees of CAAS ever visited the area in question. If not I would be delighted to bring them and any of the staff of the Kilkenny Co.Council Planning department on a tour before making such an enormous decision affecting the future of our beloved landscape and environment.
The only other information I could gather from this video was the statement that if a large scale wind development proposal were to go to an Bord Pleanala having by-passed the local planning process as would be the case under the new classification of ‘Acceptable in Principle’, they would still be subject to ‘a rake of regulations’. It is not evident from the video presentation or information online under the draft development plan what these ‘rake of regulations’ might be.
I am not adverse in any way to wind energy or windfarms and do believe that every community should contribute to a reduction in energy usage and to sustainable energy production. I do not however agree that Kilkenny Co. Council’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2030 should be borne by a small handful of communities in Faraway South Kilkenny.
I deeply urge Kilkenny Co.Council to engage further before approving this plan in its current form.
Thanking for the opportunity to make this submission,
Mark Anthony McGrath.