The objections of more than 150 Laois people have been ignored by Laois County Council, with the decision to permit the continued use of a weather mast in Stradbally which has been described by residents as “an eyesore”.
The 80m weather mast in the Ballinteskin area of Stradbally has been lambasted by local residents, who fear it is just the first step towards the construction of a major new wind farm in the locality.
Erected in July of last year by Cork-based company Element Power, three separate submissions were made to the council objecting to the continued use of the mast to measure local climate conditions.
Ms Deirdre MacQuaile, The Swan, Luggacurran, forwarded a petition signed by some 115 people from around the county; Ms Elizabeth Mulhall, a resident of Ballinteskin, made a submission on behalf of fellow residents; and Mr Justin Thomas made a submission on behalf of the ‘Save Our Stradbally’ group. Chief among the concerns was the visual impact of the mast, situated as it is next to a Special Area of Conservation.
In response, Element Power claimed that the mast does not impact negatively on the local community, nor is there any effect on the local landscape, tourism or heritage. However, the residents retorted that the company had responded inadequately, accusing Element Power of issuing “statements of opinion rather than evidence based conclusions”.
“The majority of residents in the locality do not want this eyesore rotting away in their back yard,” said Ms Mulhall, claiming that the mast is so large it is visible from as far away as Ballythomas.
“It is the first thing you see when you drive up past the church at Timogue and onto the Long Lane. It immediately catches your eye,” she said.
Meanwhile, both Ms MacQuaile and Mr Thomas, acting on behalf of their groups, challenged Element Power’s claim that the mast was needed to determine the long term wind resource at this site. “What for?” they asked. “To fly kites?”
They said the mast was “causing enormous stress in the community”, and was “a menacing indicator that an industrial wind farm is looming in the future”.
“(Weather masts) are an intrinsic part of building wind farms,” they said.
Despite this trenchant opposition, Laois County Council has now granted conditional permission to Element Power for the continued use of the mast.