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Mealagh Valley wind farm refusal hailed as a landmark decision

The decision by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to refuse planning permission for a wind farm in an upland region of West Cork has been hailed as a landmark decision for the region.

ABP refused permission to Ardrah Windfarm in the Mealagh Valley, near Bantry, based on ‘undue concentration’ of wind farm developments in the area.

The decision in March by Cork County Council to grant permission with conditions for a five-turbine development to Ardrah Wind Farm Ltd was appealed by Anthony Cohu and others in Borlin and Clive and Teresa Evans of Ardrah in the Mealagh Valley.

The board’s decision, dated July 8th, stated that the development would ‘be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development’ and ‘seriously injure the visual amenities of the area.

‘The proposed development which would by itself be visible over a wide area, would in conjunction with permitted and proposed development in the area, give rise to undue concentration of wind energy development with significant negative impacts on the landscape character and visual amenities of the area, and in particular the Mealagh Valley, and its amenity, tourism and recreational potential,’ the board stated.

ABP further stated that the development was not located within a ‘Strategic Search Area’ and was immediately next to an area designated as strategically unsuitable.

‘The reasons for refusal will have enormous significance for Shehy More and other future upland proposals. This is the first time the reality of saturation from inter-visible wind farms in the landscape has been acknowledged by the board,’ Tony Cohu told The Southern Star.

There are other implications too, Mr Cohu says, including for the areas where the councillors should be considering allowing wind farm developments in the forthcoming Cork County Development Plan.

It was a small victory Mr Cohu said given that the planning authorities have already approved 98 turbines in the upland areas of the Lee Valley catchment, Shehy Mountains and the Mealagh Valley, in addition to the 58 already operating.

Nigel de Haas of WestCorkWind.com said it was ‘a significant decision for West Cork’ in that ‘it recognises the cumulative negative impact arising from an undue concentration of wind energy development’.

Ardrah Wind Farm Ltd said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by the decision, especially in the current economic climate: ‘We will take the next few weeks to review the board’s decision and decide on the future of the project,’ a company spokesperson added.