Friday 18 January 2008

Gas station sparks huge protest in Claremorris

PLANS by a Monaghan-based company to construct a gas turbine power station in Claremorris have been met with anger and concern from local people. Risks to health, visual obtrusiveness and the potential of such a development to ‘sterilise' land in the area were all cited as reasons to oppose the project at a public meeting last week.

Chaired by Chamber of Commerce President, John Killeen, the meeting was attended by up to 500 Claremorris residents and the message and it was summed up by local woman Patricia Kean: "The people of Claremorris welcome development, but not development of this sort...thanks but no thanks!"

Mountside Properties Ltd from Monaghan are proposing to develop a gas turbine power station at the Claremorris Business Park in Boher-duff. The site for the business park, which is owned by Mayo County Council, lies just off the main N17 close to the entrance to Claremorris and, according to the attendance at the public meeting, there is simply no way this planning application can be given the go-ahead.

Mr Killeen told the meeting that the 3.9 acre site being purchased by Mountside would house a development with a •135million build cost. The plant would run on natural gas and low-sulphur gas and oil. Five people would be employed full-time at the plant in low-grade maintenance jobs.

If built, the plant will have an output of 100 megawatts of electricity --more than that produced at the Lanes-borough station. The Claremorris area uses just 8mw of electricity and has a capacity for 15mw from the Kilbeg sub-station. The entire county uses 100mw.

At the company's plant in Tynagh, Co Galway, there are 12 houses within a 1km radius, whereas, within 1km of the Claremorris site there is St Colman's College, numerous housing developments and private houses, the local Catholic Church, as well as many of the town's businesses. Mr Killeen noted that the Claremorris proposal is one of seven applications by the company throughout Ireland and, in one of their applications, the company turned down a site because of its view from a primary road.

"Why therefore are they prepared to build a station just off the N17?" questioned Mr Killeen.

In addition, Mr Killeen pointed out that the company plans to store 1,180 cubic metres of sulphur oil on site as a five-day back-up, should there be an interruption in supply. He also noted that there would be little or no economic gain for Claremorris, with just five people employed on site.

Local businessman, Liam Smyth, said the plant would have the capacity to develop at least 200mw and spoke about the large stacks that will greet visitors to the town. Mr Smyth stressed the severity of the potential health risk, as well as remarking that the plant could well sterilise the site where the Council is planning to develop a business park for "high-tech industries of the future, not the past".

In relation to the Town Plan, he stated that most of the land in the vicinity of the site is zoned for residential development but remarked that with a ‘visual eyesore' like this in place, it would ‘stifle' growth. Mr Smyth also spoke of the company's application in Cork, which the Council Architect remarked would be a ‘potential visible disaster'.

Martin Cunniffe agreed with Mr Smyth, saying that with 3,000 people living in the vicinity and large amounts of chemicals and toxins being emitted, there would be serious health implications, especially for those already suffering with asthma, allergies or other respiratory illnesses.

Mr Cunniffe explained that the Tynagh plant is built on 1,000 acres of wasteland, a marked contrast to the proposed plant for Claremorris.

The comments of the various speakers were echoed by the Chairman.

"The people of Claremorris have worked long and hard to make this a town of the future, not one that resembles the past," said Mr Killeen.

Cróna Esler
Western People

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