It seems that Tipperary are getting in on the wind farm act lately and as with most counties in Ireland, those in the receiving environment/communities are opposing this. What has interested our blog however is the media response to the substantial number of objections (more than 200 received by the local council) to the proposed development.
Rather than focus on the substantive issues raised by the objectors, the media, in this case The Sunday Times, focused on only 3 of the objectors in a piece on 11 September 2016 with a headline Lord blasts Tipperary wind farm plan. We understand that a number of complaints were made to the Sunday Times who rather than directing them to the Press Ombudsman sought letters which they would publish. This resulted in the letters published on 18 September 2016 (picture above).
One of those letter writers and a sometime contributor to this blog, Peter Crossan, also wrote to the times but his letter was edited. I have a copy of his full response letter below and it is worth a read:
In reference to your article of Sunday last ‘Lord blasts Tipperary wind farm plan’, I would request that your paper afford me the opportunity of drawing the public’s attention to the fact that a total of 205 observations were received by Tipperary Co Council opposing this development.
The application by DunoAir to develop 8 wind turbines and all associated works near Faugheen in County Tipperary has been vehemently opposed by the local community.
I prepared and submitted an observation to the County Council on behalf of the Suir Valley Environmental Group and the application was subsequently refused on four substantial grounds by the County Council.
The applicants DunoAir have since appealed this refusal to An Bord Pleanala while Lord and Lady Mangan and Anne Marie and Aidan O’Brien have also lodged appeals to the Bord on the basis that the refusal by Tipperary County Council did not go far enough in addressing their concerns.
In the coming week I will be submitting an observation on the appeals on behalf of local residents under the auspices of Suir Valley Environmental Group.
It should be realised that the landscape in which this development is proposed is significant in terms of its cultural heritage. The iconic Slievenamon which forms part of the landscape character setting of the area, hosts the most southerly Passage Tomb in Ireland at Knockroe and its alignment with the rising and setting sun of the winter solstice will be impacted by this development.
The High Crosses at Kilkieran would also be visually impacted by the proposed development, and a number of other archaeological sites in the area, such as Baunfree Passage Tomb which is aligned with the Cairn on the summit of Slievenamon.
This is a unique landscape and setting and the proposed development is totally contrary to the conservation objectives set out for the area in the local County Development Plan.
There is a long check list of issues which point towards proper planning and sustainable development and when considered clearly illustrate the unsuitability of this proposal for the area.
Your article suggests that the proposed wind farm would generate sufficient electricity to service 15,000 homes and this is completely unsubstantiated, and while this figure is suggested by the applicants it is simply unproven and untrue.
It is long overdue that we have a proper National debate on the merits of this kind of development and what is our understanding of what represents proper and sustainable development in rural Ireland.
So, what does this tell us: the media in Ireland are caught in an awkward position. Headlines such as Lord Blasts wind farm, is very useful click-bait in our digital media age. Most news outlets know that wind farm stories drive readers and eye-balls to their websites. But this also hides an unwillingness by most media outlets to question big-wind or indeed to delve deeper in to the real issues haunting local communities when big-wind comes to town, never mind address the environmental impacts of inappropriately sited developments.
We have recently seen RTE and TV3 losing out on €500,000 of income from the wind industry advertising campaign, following the BAI decision to declare the JFK advertisement unlawful. Like it or not wind farms and their promoters are big spenders in the advertising and media realm, their money talks and whether consciously or not the media always follow the money. While this continues local communities are unlikely to have their stories in battling big-wind presented in a fair and even way. So, best of luck to the ordinary people of Tipperary lets hope the media dig deeper and question the merits of this kind of development and what is our understanding of what represents proper and sustainable development in rural Ireland.