August 2, 2014

Planning board approves €80m wind farm in Tipperary

Gordon Deegan | The Irish Times | Aug 2, 2014 |

An Bord Pleanála has overruled its planning inspector to give the go ahead to plans for a substantial €80 million wind farm in north Tipperary that will be almost 30m (100ft) taller than Dublin’s Spire.

In its decision, the appeals board has granted permission for a 16-turbine farm to ESB Wind Development and Coillte on the slopes of the highest peak in north Tipperary, Keeper Hill, in the Silvermines mountains south of the M7 Limerick to Dublin route.

The wind turbines have a tip height of 145m (475ft) – 25m (81ft) higher than Dublin’s 120m (394ft) high Spire.

The planning board’s inspector recommended refusal as the development “would interfere with the striking skylines and detract from the wilderness at Keeper Hill”.

The inspector also recommended refusal over fears that the development would result in the loss of protected European-designated sites and give rise to water pollution through peat slippage.

Erosion of habitat

Last year, North Tipperary County Council refused permission for the proposal as the development would result in a significant loss of foraging habitat for an EU protected bird, the hen harrier.

The council made its decision after the Department of Arts and Heritage objected to the plan, stating that the proposed development would result in a net loss of 137 hectares of habitat within the Slievefelim to Silvermines Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA).

An Taisce also raises concerns over the proposal stating that 28 wind turbines have already been granted planning permission in the SPA, and that planning should not be granted until a comprehensive assessment has been made of the ability of the hen harrier to forage in the vicinity of the wind-farm.

Visually prominent

ESB Wind Development and Coillte appealed the decision to the planning board.

The board’s inspector did not agree with the council’s reason to refuse permission after finding that the applicant demonstrated that the project would not adversely affect the SPA.

The inspector did cite the two other reasons for refusal.

However, the applicant lodged photomontages of the development with the planning board in May.

Consequently, the board found that while accepting that the proposal would be visually prominent in some views, it concluded that the visual impact would be by itself – and together with other wind-farm developments in the area – acceptable.

The board also found the risk of peat slippage was low.

In its formal order granting the 25 year permission it ruled that the wind farm would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity and would not be injurious to the cultural heritage of the area.

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