A petition signed by around 120 people from all across the county has been submitted to Laois County Council objecting to the continued use of an 80m weather mast in the Ballinteskin area of Stradbally.
Fears have been expressed that the mast, erected in July of last year by Cork-based company Element Power, could be but the first step towards the construction of a new wind farm, thus spoiling the natural beauty of this stretch of rural land. Element Power have since made a planning application for the continued use of the 80m lattice type meteorological mast, to measure local climatic conditions for a period of 30 years. A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment report has been included, and landowner consent has been given by David and Valerie Sheehy.
Three separate submissions have been made to the council by groups or individuals around the county, objecting to the plans.
Ms Deirdre Macquaile, The Swan, Luggacurran, has forwarded a petition signed by some 115 people, from Timahoe, Stradbally, Portlaoise, The Swan, Spink, Ballyroan, Portarlington, Wolfhill, Mountmellick, Cullenagh, and Old Leighlin.
Ms Macquaile cites the “appalling absence of engagement and meaningful dialogue by the promoter with the local community”, and the visual impact of the mast on the “sensitive rural location”.
Ms Elizabeth Mulhall, a resident of Ballinteskin, made a submission on behalf of a number of fellow residents. She pointed out that the mast is sited next to a Special Area of Conservation. A number of developments have been refused in the area over the past number of years, and she said that there are already numerous masts on the land, “none of which have any planning permission to my knowledge”.
Meanwhile, Mr Justin Thomas, representing the ‘Save Our Stradbally’ group, said he believed the mast is part of an overall wind farm development, as Element Power have signed options with landowners in order to develop a wind farm at the site.
He also said that Element Power cannot ascertain that there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of the site, which is a Special Area of Conservation.
A decision is due from Laois County Council by September 25.