Professional objectors one of the ‘biggest threats’ to wind farms – IWFA chairman

While communities across the country continue to fight against wind farms, objections to these strategic infrastructural developments appear to be on the increase.

Objections and the method of lodging submissions to obtain them are all part of the democratic process. However, this very matter has come to the fore in recent times, with some experts going as far as to describe the effort as both “professional” and unhelpful to communities.

In a recent interview with AgriLand, Grattan Healy chairperson of the Irish Wind Farmers’ Association (IWFA) lashed out at what he described as ‘professional objectors’, whom he added “were running around the country aggravating communities”.

Healy also said that professional objectors have become one of the biggest threats to communities because of the falsehoods about wind farm developments that they are pushing upon people.

“We have a group running around the country aggravating communities and encouraging them to complain about, and object to, wind farms; they are agitating people,” he added.

‘Fighting the good fight’

Meanwhile, Co. Cavan suckler farmer and retired detective Garda Val Martin has been campaigning against wind farm developments in this country for nearly 20 years.

He first became involved in 2000 when a planning application was made to develop a wind farm close to his suckler farm. He has been involved with anti-wind farm groups ever since and travels around the country providing advice and assistance – where possible – to these communities.

But, does he consider himself to be a professional objector? The simple answer, he says, is no.

Professional means that you are paid – I’m not paid; I took a judicial review on my local wind farm in Kingscourt and because of section 50(b) of the Planning and Development Act I got my own costs.

Most recently Martin took judicial review proceedings against the North South Interconnector and points to the fact that he bore his own costs in that instance.

“Contrary to what people believe the cost of the judicial review that I took was €490; it wasn’t the end of the world but I’m definitely not a professional,” he continued.

“There may be other people who do charge for their services – they have to live the same way as any one else. For example, there are experts who are consulted by local people to provide guidance.”

The Co. Cavan suckler farmer went on to say that over the years “several groups have come to me because they didn’t know what was going to happen in their particular case”.

He added: “Many of them were in the same boat as I was in Kingscourt in 2009. I gave them the guidance on the proper way for them to go about their situation so that the specific environmental laws could be adhered to in each case.

“I got nothing for that. But I do know that there are other people who are getting an income by providing that type of service.”