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Community must see benefit from Mayo windfarm development

A COMMUNITY in north Mayo must see gain and not just pain from a proposed new windfarm development.

Local councillors were clear on the need for consultation and for people to be listened to when they received a presentation on the €140 million, 21-turbine Sheskin South Windfarm project.

A community benefit fund of €700,000 per annum is proposed and the developers, SSE Renewables and Futur Energy Ireland, have been urged to include elected representatives on the fund's board.

It is hoped to bring the project before An Bord Pleanála for planning approval this year.

Councillor Gerry Coyle said he wanted to see north Mayo exporting its wind energy, not people, but there has to be a benefit for the people living closest to them.

Funds were invested in community facilities like pitches, but he suggested other initiatives, such as insulation of homes within a certain radius or free electricity.

Consult with the people and listen to them, he advised the project representatives.

Agreeing, Councillor Sean Carey said locals have the pain and they must also have the gain.

Councillor John O'Malley made the point that there is plenty of space in the county to put in turbines without infringing on people's homes and livelihoods.

In response to queries about how the community benefit fund will operate, councillors were told it will run along RES guidelines, with a community group being established to decide where the money goes. This could include sports facilities, schools, or scholarships.

More consultation will be taking place locally in the new year.

Councillor Coyle made the point that this is a very rural area and the people on the board will be volunteers, and there won't be a big queue trying to be on it. It puts a lot of pressure on locals to deliver on projects and he suggested two councillors sit on the fund's board.

It was clarified that there are no homes within one kilometre of the windfarm, with 22 houses located between one and two kilometres away. Councillor Carey predicted many of them will not be available to be involved in administering the fund.

There was no commitment given at the meeting to include elected members, but it would be discussed internally.

Municipal district cathaoirleach Councillor Brendan Mulroy said he hoped it is taken on board. If not, their advice had not been taken on board.

On the question of visual impact, the windfarm will not be visible from the Ceide Fields or Downpatrick Head.

Noise levels are within the guidelines, and during construction the developers will work with the community to minimise disruption.