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Wind farm controversy blows up again as two projects get green light

Strong recommendations by senior inspectors with An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission for two wind farms in the South Connemara area were rejected by the executive of the Planning Appeals Board who gave them the green light.

One of the wind farms granted planning permission will become one of the biggest in the country and between them, the two Connemara developments have the potential to provide almost 100,000 homes with electricity.

Fisheries interests, turf cutters and An Taisce were among the objectors to the wind farms – the biggest one is located in the Oughterard area with the other being situated on the road between Spiddal and Moycullen.

However, the fact that An Bord Pleanala’s own inspectors were vehemently opposed to the wind farms being built is bound to raise some eyebrows in Connemara where there have been a significant number of applications for such developments in recent years.

With regard to the application to construct a 23 turbine wind farm on Coillte owned lands south of Oughterard, the inspector said that the proposed turbines would be obvious in the landscape as viewed over a wide area.

He said that the greatest potential for significant adverse impact on the environment arose from the construction phase works and also highlighted the lack of a wind energy strategy for the particular area.

The inspector considered that the development of a wind farm in this upland area of Oughterard to be premature and suggested that an oral hearing take place so that its effect on the environment could be limited.

But An Bord Pleanala did not accept this recommendation and concluded that the wind farm would not have an unacceptable impact on the landscape and nor would it injure the visual amenities of the area.

Regarding the second planning appeal for a seven turbine wind farm around three miles from Spiddal, the An Bord Pleanala inspector said that it would be an excessively dominant feature on the landscape and would be “visually obtrusive”. Yet the board did not agree with this assessment saying that they had to comply with renewable energy targets and did not believe that it would have an adverse visual impact on the area.

The inspector also warned of earth movements at this location as there were a number of downstream water courses in the area.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.