The Irish wind industry has suffered another major setback with a decision by An Bord Pleanála to overturn Donegal County Council’s approval for 25 large turbines on a 475-hectare site near Glenties.
In its ruling, the board said the proposed development would have “significant adverse impacts on the ecology” of the Owenea river system, including a special area of conservation that hosts the freshwater pearl mussel, a protected species.
It noted that the scheme would involve the “excavation of extensive volumes of peat from the site” and the removal of this peat to “repositories” overlaid on sloping blanket bog of variable thickness behind houses along the Meenalargan road.
Board ‘not satisified’
The board said it was “not satisfied” that these repositories would be effective in containing the disaggregated peat, having regard to the contours of the area, the pattern of rainfall in Co Donegal and the “indicative design” of the proposed repositories.
As it would “constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution of nearby watercourses and seriously injure the amenities of property in the vicinity”, the proposed development would be “contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
The council’s decision to approve the Straboy wind farm was appealed by at least 14 local residents as well as the Golden Eagle Trust, the Gweebarra Conservation Group and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. An oral hearing was held earlier this year.
Straboy Wind Energy Ltd sought permission for 25 turbines with 64m hub heights and 71m rotor blades, four “borrow pits”, an electricity sub-station, clear-felling of an existing conifer plantation, an internal road system and associated development works.
In his 165-page report to An Bord Pleanála, senior planning inspector Kevin Moore said: “I cannot impress enough upon the board the importance of the reliability of information on the proposed containment of peat waste at the proposed repositories.”
He noted that this design element of the Straboy wind farm scheme “appears to be subject to ongoing review and change” and added: “The risk associated with inadequate containment measures is too great and the hazard posed cannot be downplayed.”
Mr Moore said the proposed development had “created a substantial divisiveness between the local community and the developers and landowners involved in the application [with only] the minimum level of consultation required under the Planning Acts.”
A wider pre-application public consultation and liaison “would have helped to at least improve an understanding of the applicant’s proposal and potentially allay fears for some . . . rather than appearing to foist a proposal on to a local community”, he added.
The Glenties Wind Farm Information Group congratulated the inspector on his “excellent report”.
The information group noted that local people had to “defend their health and wellbeing at their own cost”. It also queried how Donegal County Council had approved “such a fatally flawed scheme”.
Straboy Wind Energy Ltd could not be contacted yesterday to comment on the planning board’s ruling.
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