The local planning authority is opposing plans for the development of a €100m 40-turbine windfarm in West Clare, it has emerged.
At an oral hearing conducted by An Bord Pleanála, senior executive planner for Clare County Council, Helen Quinn, stated the planning authority isn’t in favour of the Shragh Windfarm, having regard to the scale of the development, the policies of the County Development Plan and the Wind Energy Strategy.
The authority’s opposition is regarded as a setback to Clare Coastal Wind Power’s plans for a 10-year planning permission for the development of the windfarm at Carrowmore South, Einagh, Monmore North, Doonbeg, Mountrivers, Shragh and Dromellihy.
The development consists of turbines with a hub height of up to 85 metres and a rotor diameter of up to 82m, giving an overall height of 126m, hard standings, a substation containing two control buildings, an electrical compound and a wastewater holding tank, a new free span concrete bridge over the Doonbeg River, a permanent meteorological mast, a viewing tower and associated site roads and drainage.
The authority noted the site is located within an area identified in the Wind Energy Strategy as being ‘acceptable in principle’ whereby the development of “medium” sized windfarms of between six and 10 turbines would be acceptable.
The site area of 371 hectares represents 0.78% of the total area of lands identified as being ‘acceptable in principle’ under the Wind Energy Strategy.
However, the authority is concerned the output at 120MW represents 80% of the target output for all the lands designated as ‘acceptable in principle’ up to 2017.
Representing the developer, Richard Barker, Mos Art Limited, Architecture Landscape Urban Design, Dublin, concluded on balance the overall significance of impact for the windfarm is deemed to be “moderate”. He stated the development would not impart an industrial character on this landscape in the classical sense and would not significantly alter the relatively remote, windswept character of the area.
He argued the landscape of the site and its immediate surrounds is more reflective of the ‘flat peatland’ and ‘transitional marginal’ landscape types from the national guidelines, which stated the appropriate size of windfarms is large.
He noted an important ameliorating factor is the close proximity of the proposed development to the existing Monmore and permitted Tullabrack windfarms.
Ms Quinn noted the landscape character assessment, on which the wind energy strategy is based, identified the subject site as being both within the ‘Malbay Coastal Farmland’ and ‘Loop Head’ Character Areas.
With regard to the former, the strategy identifies the capacity of the landscape as being sensitive to tourism and recreational areas and notes that large or medium windfarms would be highly visible, particularly close to the coastal area.
In terms of the Loop Head area, the strategy notes that the existing windfarm at Monmore has become established in the landscape and stated the remainder of the Loop Head area is more sensitive to development.
“The scale of the proposed development raises the question as to the ability of the existing landscape to absorb further windfarm developments,” she said.
The Clare planning authority is concerned that the scale and location of the proposed development might have a negative impact on the tourist experience within a coastal landscape and within proximity to the N67, which is a popular route linking tourist areas in the north-west to south-west Clare.
Ms Quinn recommended that a special development contribution of €736,840 is required to cover the remedial works required to the road network following sustained heavy vehicular traffic.
While the council doesn’t envisage there would be a significant impact on the main national road network, it is concerned about the impact through Kilrush town and the local road network.
“The proposed haulage route would appear to have overlooked the narrow section of lower Moore Street and Crawford Street in Kilrush and this may not facilitate the passage of oversized loads in the event of any cars parking there.
“The authority would have concerns that the haul route, as designated, may not be exclusively used for the importation of, for example, local quarry material,” she said.