Clare County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to a proposed €10 million wind farm in west Clare “brings into question the council’s commitment to its own Wind Energy Strategy”.
That is the view of planning consultant, Brendan McGrath, who was commenting on the comprehensive refusal by the local authority against the application by McMahon Finn Wind Acquisitions Ltd for a six-turbine wind farm located 9km from the west Clare coastal village of Quilty.
Last month, the local authority refused planning permission to the plan for a contentious 400ft-high wind farm over – in part – the impact it will have on the protected and rare bird, the Hen Harrier.
Birdwatch Ireland and a large number of locals had expressed their opposition to the plans.
In his appeal, Mr McGrath states that other wind farm proposals in Clare have been subject to requests for information rather than outright refusals.
He states that the outright refusal, without seeking further information “undermines local confidence in the planning process which should be seen to adhere to the principles of natural justice and fair procedures that are set out in Development Management Guidelines”.
Mr McGrath states: “In this instance, the benefits of a clearly stated wind energy strategy and comprehensive statutory guidance appear to have been negated by inconsistent development management practice.”
On refusing planning permission due to the Hen Harrier, Mr McGrath states on the basis of surveys of the site in 2010 and 2011, “it can be reasonably concluded that the attractiveness of the site for foraging Hen Harrier is low; that Hen Harrier use the site rarely and irregularly and that the site is not part of a regular transit route for Harriers between important breeding/foraging areas in the general area”.
Mr McGrath states that the project accords with national and local policy to promote wind farm developments; would not be seriously injurious to residential amenity; does not pose a threat to water quality and does not pose a threat to biodiversity.
Requesting the board to give the plan the go-ahead, Mr McGrath states: “The project relates to a site which is in a locality that has been earmarked for wind energy development by the Council.
“The site does not represent serious engineering and environmental challenges compared to most wind farm sites.
“This project is in accordance with the Clare Wind Energy Strategy 2009, the Clare County Development Plan 2011 and wind energy guidelines of 2006 and the 2011 Programme for Government.
A decision is due on the appeal later this year or early 2012.
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