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Call for study of turbine impact

A call has been made for more research into the impact of wind turbines on hen harriers in upland areas along the borders of counties Cork, Limerick, and Kerry.

An Bord Pleanála also says there’s a need to study the capacity of the area to absorb large-scale windfarm development without affecting the protected bird’s habitat.

It claimed planning authorities in the three counties have failed to approach the contentious issue in a co-ordinated way.

In the latest case, the planning appeals’ body turned down an action by An Taisce against a Kerry County Council decision to grant permission for three turbines near Listowel.

Dromadda Beg Windfarm Ltd had applied for permission to erect the 95m high turbines in a remote area of primarily blanket bog, 4km from Knocknagoshel, which adjoins the site of a 20-turbine development currently under construction.

The location is in a Special Protection Area (SPA) for the hen harrier and An Taisce claimed there was no further capacity for windfarms.

It also pointed out the location was an important foraging area for hen harriers and there would also be likely disturbance to curlew, golden plover and red grouse.

However, the appeals’ board concluded the development would “not have a significant impact’’ on the SPA and granted planning subject to 25 conditions.

Separately, the county council has bowed to public pressure by imposing a virtual ban on further windfarms in north Kerry in its new county development plan for 2015 to 2021.

The council has decided not to permit windfarms in areas “open to consideration’’ for such developments in the Tralee and Listowel electoral areas until 80% of turbines for which planning permission had been granted, had been erected.

North Kerry currently has more turbines, 114, than most other regions and planning has also been given for an additional 133 turbines there, amid continuing local opposition to new planning applications.

Last October, the council refused planning for a 10-turbine windfarm at Ballyhorgan near Listowel, following vehement local opposition and the lodgement of up to 300 objections. Stacks Mountain Windfarm Ltd is appealing to An Bord Pleanála against the decision.

A large number of objections to windfarms have been submitted to the council and there are concerns that 450 of the 600 turbines reportedly proposed for the county would be in north Kerry.