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Wind farm hearing told of peat landslide fears

An oral hearing into a proposal for a wind farm near Castleisland, Co Kerry, heard yesterday how the applicants proposed locating large turbines in existing forestry rather than blanket bog to prevent the possibility of a peat landslide.

The site of wind turbines proposed by Saorgus Energy Ltd was also in the flight path to Kerry airport, 15km away, and this was one of the reasons it had been turned down by the local authority, yesterday’s proceedings were told.

A representative of the Irish Aviation Authority said the farm would not affect the safety of normal commercial flights. Kerry airport, however, said this would be the only wind farm in the direct path of their airport and the turbines should not be allowed.

The 730-hectare site stretching to the Cork and west Limerick borders was zoned “open for consideration” rather than suitable in the Kerry County Council development plan, flagging the fact that it had certain sensitivities.

Within it were “dual conservation areas” for birds and animals and nearby was an area of special conservation. The proposed farm at Cordal was 15km from the airport exclusion zone at Kerry airport. Aviation safety – because of the site’s proximity to Kerry airport – as well as environmental issues had led to Kerry County Council refusing to grant the application earlier this year.

It is the fourth application by Saorgus Energy. Permission was granted in 1999 for a smaller wind farm on blanket bogland and subsequent applications were to extend the number of wind turbines. Permission still exists for 11 turbines on blanket bog.

Concerns were raised about the stability of the bog and the possibility of landslide, about the effect on protected blanket bog habitat and the hen harrier, and the effects of sediment from construction on rivers and roads.

Saorgus engineer Kevin Harty said the peat depth varied from 10mm to three metres and the turbines would not be sited in the deeper bog, making the risk of a slide “negligible”. A decision will be published on January 6th.