A farmer who faces the risk of losing his 100-acre dairy holding said yesterday it was like a sword over his head, after a High Court judge put off a decision on who will pay the costs of a six-day court challenge to a €70m Tipperary windfarm.
Ned Buckley said he and his family may now have to wait months or even years until a Supreme Court decision in a similar case about legal costs to find out if they will have to fork out what is believed to be a six-figure sum.
“We could lose our farm,” Mr Buckley said outside the Four Courts. “It is a huge worry in the back of our minds for the next six, 18 months or even more.
“Waiting for the Supreme Court decision on another case just pushes it all down the tracks and leaves us in limbo.”
Father-of-three Mr Buckley, who farms at Gortnara, Upperchurch, in North Tipperary is facing the legal costs bill after he and another local, Edel Grace, from Grousehall, Milestone, Thurles, lost their High Court challenge to the granting of planning permission for an electricity generating windfarm in Upperchurch, Tipperary.
The proposed development by Ecopower Developments Ltd outside Upperchurch village comprises of 22 turbines and it is claimed that it will have an output sufficient to power 23,000 homes.
In court yesterday, Mr Justice Brian Cregan said he would adjourn the question of costs in the case until the Supreme Court had handed down its decision in another case.
The Supreme Court has to decide whether the provisions – which allow for members of the public not to be liable for costs when challenging cases which involved Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control directives – should be extended to certain planning matters.
Mr Buckley yesterday said Ecopower Deveopments had said it was not seeking costs but An Bord Pleanála was seeking the costs of the six-day hearing.
“If this goes against us, we don’t know how much it will be,” said Mr Buckley. “It changes the way you make plans.
“The bill may be colossal. We don’t know what the options will be. I am not going to sell my stock and I don’t want to sell my farm; my family have farmed here for six generations.”
“I would like to pass my farm on. People have to realise it is not just a farm; it is our home. We love where we live.”
He said his family had always paid its bills and now it does not even know what it was going to have to pay.
“You don’t know if you should be working 50 times harder because there is a bill coming down the tracks, but we intend to plough on and battle on,” Mr Buckley said.
Meanwhile, Ms Grace, who has a small business making teddy bears, said the threat of huge legal costs was over their heads.
“We are now left in limbo, stuck in this situation maybe for a very long time, even years,” she said.
“I am a craft worker and if we are presented with a bill for hundreds of thousands of euro then I would be looking at filing for bankruptcy or selling a house which nobody would want due to a windfarm development being granted permission.”
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