I found myself in the midst of another interesting Facebook debate last Thursday after posting images of pylons which will (there’s no may about it) soon form a part of the south-east’s landscape.
“I’m consistent in saying that if people want to live outside urban groupings in stand alone housing then they must accept the things that we accept in the city,” posted one respondent.
“Necessary infrastructures. I find rural dwellers sometimes a bit precious about ‘their’ land, ‘their views’, etc.”
Lobbing the debating ball back across the net, I replied: “We’re all precious about something in fairness. And regardless of someone’s view, everyone’s entitled to a standpoint.
“To be fair, a good few landowners I’ve spoken to have said that compensation is not the pressing matter here. And a necessary infrastructure as you put it would never run through an urban area, so you’re not comparing like with like.”
The respondent, who lives in Waterford city to the best of my knowledge, fired the ball back at me, posting: “I take a bigger look at these things. What’s necessary for all can’t be held up by a tiny minority. Farming of course excluded. My beef is with McMansion dwellers.”
While hardly hitting what could be described as a tie-break winner with my next reply, I typed: “This project is going ahead, that’s cast in stone. My parents’ house is, to the best of my knowledge, the third closest to the two wind turbines in Portlaw; we don’t mind them at all, but two is enough – if there were six up there, there’d be a considerable bit of noise.
“And again, to be fair, it’s easy to say ‘ah sure put up with it’ when you yourself are not affected by a change.”
Not In My Back Yard – or NIMBY as it’s more commonly known as, is a phrase which tends to reappear when a major infrastructural project threatens, as concerned locals would perceive it, the natural beauty and peace of their locality.
Those proposing such projects, naturally, view such matters primarily through an economic prism – and, from a commercial, money-making, job-generating perspective, that hardly constitutes a crime.
On the face of it, this is a ‘Little Against Large’ battle, and it’s all too easy for, let’s face it, ‘outsiders’ to dismiss the views of rural residents, farmers and landowners purely on parochial grounds.
If this project isn’t coming within an ass’s roar of where you live, then an ivory tower is the only tall structure which any such commentator is likely to occupy when discussing the matter.
On Wednesday last, speaking to representatives of 51 Irish regional newspapers, well-known architect and television presenter Duncan Stewart referred to the small level of Irish homes heated by renewable energy. “Just one and a half per cent of homes in Ireland are heated by renewable energy, a lamentable statistic in the Ireland of 2013,” he said.
“We are 90 per cent dependent on energy and fuel imports (with 95 per cent of that being fossil fuels) and we spend a staggering €6.5 billion in energy imports.
“Our dependency on fossil fuel is something which could come back to haunt us if oil supplies from the Middle East, as they have in the past, were to become limited; and that’s a threat we have to live with practically every day.”
I’d hoped to ask Duncan a question about the GridLink Project which, on the face of it, should reduce some of that €6.5 billion annual energy import spend in time, but as soon as he’d finished his presentation on Wednesday last, the ‘EcoEye’ front man made for the exit like Usain Bolt.
The EirGrid-backed project has mobilised residents across rural Waterford – Kilmacthomas, Rathgormack, Portlaw and Ballyduff to name but four areas – to do what they can to keep the project away from their parishes. Similar campaigns, as reported by Kieran Foley in last week’s edition have just been initiated across the Suir in Piltown and Mooncoin.
North along the Suir Valley, beyond Carrick-on-Suir, there are two potential routes for the €500 million project, both of which run within close proximity to where I live at present – Faugheen, three miles north of Carrick.
Indeed, one of the one-kilometre corridors marked on the map supplied by EirGrid appears to run through a field adjoining the place I currently call home.
Am I best pleased about this? To be honest, no. I look out my kitchen window and frequently marvel at the unspoiled beauty of the area, with the small electricity poles nearby thankfully diminished by the old oaks and horse chestnuts that have stood there for 150 years or more.
I’ve long since made my peace with the Portlaw wind turbines; in fact I think they’re aesthetically pleasing and have truly put the place I grew up on the map – be one positioned in Stradbally or the Six Cross Roads, one can view them.
But pylons, wherever they’re located, are an appalling visual blight on the landscape. And, in the event of them passing very, very close to where I currently live, then I shall, in time, have to make my peace with that as well.
But if the ‘NIMBY brigade’, as concerned locals may well be dubbed by those geographically and emotionally detached from such infrastructure proposals have something to say, then let them speak. And let their voices be fairly and equitably heard.