File photo.

Windfarm has made our lives a 'living hell'

A local grandmother claims that her family's life has been a “living hell” since the Meenwaun Windfarm near Banagher became operational early last month.

Olive Cunningham's home in Garbally is just over 500m from one of the 169 metre high turbines in the windfarm, owned by Belgian company Storm and managed by Element Power.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week, Mrs Cunningham says that the noise pollution from the turbines, one of the highest in Ireland, has made life intolerable.

“Every day since January 5, being in our hourse and yard has been just a living hell. It's like living in Dublin Airport or like living beside a helicopter.

“We can't sleep. I can't sleep. You can't go out in the yard, you have to listen to this noise constantly.”

Mrs Cunningham, who says that only decent night's sleep she has had in the last six weeks was when the turbine closest to her house was turned off, claims that the value of her home for over 40 years has fallen significantly since the windfarm was constructed.

She recently went to an auctioneer to put the house up for sale but they refused to do so because its proximity to the windfarm would deter buyers.

“Our house is worth nothing. We have nowhere to move to. I spent three and a half hours at the council meeting [where Cllr John Carroll submitted a motion calling for the local authority to take a more “proactive approach” to monitoring noise at wind farms] where they were talking about all these homeless families. Where do we present ourselves as homeless? Who is going to rehouse us? We bought an old cottage and we repaired it up.

"We are both close to retiring now. Where do we go? I have lived in this area for the last 62 years, and in this house for the last 40 years. “I can't even go and live with my brother and sister down the road as it's as bad at their houses as mine.

“ I don't want to move from my house. It's ideal for me and my family,” she said.

“...We have a polytunnel where my husband would spent an awful lot of time but it's just unbearable now. My garden is out of bounds as I can't bear the noise.

“The windfarm was given the green light by planners in April 2015, despite receiving almost 60 objections mainly from people living in the vicinity. Mrs Cunningham feels that although her family have lived in the area for 40 years, their rights have been ignored.

"I understood from planning laws that I can't take your enjoyment of your house from you. I can't put a window where I like because it may overlook yours and take your privacy. But they have taken our lives."

Cllr John Carroll says that the rights of Mrs Cunningham's family and other people living close to Meenwaun Windfarm have been "seriously infringed". He also believes that the noise levels at Meenwaun "should and must be continuously monitored by independent evaluators to ensure the quality of life of the local community".

"Locals have tolerated much disruption during construction of this wind farm but since it's commission on January 5 life is intolerable.

"...They cannot dispose of their houses if the wished. Surely it is wrong that they are expected to pay property tax on houses where life has become unbearable and have no value for disposal?"

Element Power issued a statment to the Offaly Independent yesterday afternoon:

"Meenwaun wind farm is scheduling to commence the wind farm’s operational compliance Noise Monitoring programme on Monday next, February 26 as required under Offaly County Council’s Planning Approval for project.

"The Monitoring Programme is expected to last for 4-8 weeks with a final report submitted to Offaly County Council on completion of the programme.

"The aim of the programme is to demonstrate that the windfarm is operating within its approved planning condition noise levels.

"The windfarm personnel are in regular contact with both local residents and Offaly County Council on the operation of the wind farm and monitoring programme