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Cloghan residents to fight wind farm development

The community of Cloghan were left ‘totally disgusted’ by a recent decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning permission for the construction of nine wind turbines, outside Cloghan and a group of residents have vowed to fight the decision ‘with every avenue available’ to them.
Last week, Offaly County Council granted permission to Galetech Energy Development Cloghan Ltd for the development of nine wind turbines with an overall maximum tip of 150 metres at lands at Stonestown, Kilmain, Crancreagh and Derrinlough, outside Cloghan.
This latest decision comes less then a year after An Bord Pleanala turned down a development for ten wind turbines at the same location, saying that ‘the proposed wind energy development would, therefore, seriously injure the visual amenities of the area’.
If last week’s decision is not appealed to An Bord Pleanala, the development will be granted on November 4th. However, speaking to the Tribune this week, Stonestown resident, Damien Buckley confirmed that an appeal was ‘definitely heading to An Bord Pleanala’. He said that a group of residents, who objected to the planning application, met on Sunday night last to discuss the recent decision and where they were going with the campaign.
Damien told the Tribune that a ‘new campaign had begun to fight this decision’. ‘We are focusing on six main areas of objections. Teams are being putting together to work on this along with experts who have volunteered their time. We are totally disgusted with Offaly County Council’s planning decision and we are going to use every avenue available to fight this decision.’
The planning authority attached 19 conditions to the planning permission. These included that all turbine blades rotate in the same direction, that noise levels shouldn’t exceed 40dBa, that no shadow flicker shall occur at any dwelling within a ten rotor diameter of turbines, that an avian radar system must be installed and that cables should be laid underground. In addition, Galetech will have to pay €288,000 to the council as part of its development contribution.
Darren Sherry, director of Galetech, told the Tribune this week he was happy the council had approved the amended project.
‘We took the feedback from the An Bord Pleanala decision and obviously sought to remedy the issues raised such as the height, the number of turbines and the location,’ said Mr Sherry.
Originally ten turbines with a maximum height from base to rotor tip of 170 metres (nearly 560 feet) were proposed but the latest plan sees them lowered to 150 metres.
Mr Sherry said that if there is no appeal to An Bord Pleanala on this occasion the project could go to construction in 2016.
‘We’ll just have to let the planning system go through. We feel it’s a very strong project but obviously this is just the first step in a long process,’ said the Galetech director.
In December last year An Bord Pleanala allowed an appeal by a Cavan-based anti-turbine campaigner, Val Martin, on grounds of visual impact, noise, shadow flicker and a threat to wild birds.
The planning board decided the wind farm ‘would create a significant visual intrusion in this landscape’ and the proposed turbines would be ‘excessively dominant and visually obtrusive when viewed from the surrounding countryside and villages’.
The An Bord Pleanala inspector detailed the impact the turbines would have. ‘In terms of the potential visual impact in the subject landscape, having regard to the low lying, open and exposed nature of the landscape, I consider that the turbines will be highly visible and I am concerned that the visual impact of turbines in this landscape would be significantly negative. I am further concerned that the scale of the turbines proposed are so significant as to warrant concern,’ the inspector wrote.
The inspector also feared for wildfowl and said birds could collide with the turbines and therefore the wind farm would contravene Offaly County Council’s own prohibition on developments harmful to habitats and species in certain areas.