Plans for Ireland’s first community-operated wind farm have been shot down. The €25 million proposal by a group in Killala to input 23 megawatts of energy into the national grid within a year, enough to electrify 17,000 homes, has been turned down at the eleventh hour by An Bord Pleanála.
On grounds of visual impact and residential concerns, the appeals board last week ruled against the Killala Community Windfarm Ltd (KCWF) plan for the erection of ten wind turbines on 700 acres. The farm was to be backed by local investors to ensure all profits remained within the community.
KCWF was formed by eight locals with the intention of developing a 23MW wind farm on their family farms. The group is headed up by three directors, Damien Barrett and John and Martin Gilvarry, and 17 investors. Killala Community Council are shareholders in KCWF, which has also received funding to the tune of €61,450 from Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). It was also backed by the Western Development Commission (WDC).
Despite the submission of 45 objections, citing the fact that the turbines would be over twice the height of the former Asahi tower, Killala Community Windfarm was granted planning permission by Mayo County Council on December 6, 2007 subject to 21 conditions. This was subsequently appealed by Environmental Management Services, on behalf of Willie McGreal and others, Kevin Deering and Peter Crossan, Patrick O’Malley, Brian Carroll and Padraic Roche.
The appeal by Environmental Management Services, on behalf of Willie McGreal and others, was signed by 25 other local residents.
In a 30-page report, planning Inspector, Fiona Fair, recommended that the plan be refused on visual grounds, deeming it ‘excessively dominant and visually obtrusive’. She also cited the existing dispersed settlement and said such a development would have ‘an unacceptably overbearing impact on the residents’.
The Board decided to refuse permission in accordance with the Inspector’s recommendation, concurring with the site’s close proximity to residential housing.
The move now leaves the future of KCWF hanging in the balance. Director, John Gilvarry, told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) he was ‘very disappointed’ by the refusal and said the group will have to go back to the drawing board. “At this stage, all I can say is that we have to study this decision in detail. It is a very detailed report and until we do that we don’t know where we can go from here,” he said.
“In Denmark 85 per cent of wind farms are community owned. We [in Ireland] have the second best wind potential and we should harness this resource to create a more sustainable rural Ireland. Other rural areas can learn from this.”
Referring to local unrest, he described the process as ‘a learning curve’. “There is a lot of communication needed in the planning stages and maybe we could have done a better job on that, but at this point we will just have to keep our future options open,” he added.
22 July 2008
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