The way has been cleared for the development of a wind farm after the Court of Appeal rejected a challenge to planning permission centring on concerns for a “critically endangered” freshwater pearl mussel.
Coillte can proceed with erecting 18 wind turbines and associated development on lands at Cullenagh, close to the villages of Timahoe and Ballyroan, Co Laois.
People Over Wind challenged the development on grounds including concerns about a protected fauna in the River Nore Special Area of Conservation, the Nore freshwater pearl mussel.
The mussel is a “critically endangered” species, with an adult population in the River Nore of about 300, having been as high as 20,000 in 1991, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan noted.
While the lifespan of the mussel extends from 70 to 100 years, the Nore freshwater mussel is not known to have reproduced itself since 1970.
Laois County Council refused permission for the development.
An inspector with An Bord Pleanála also recommended refusal.
In June 2014, the board granted permission with what the appeal court described as “key” conditions.
While dismissing the case in the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Robert Haughton said it raised points of law of exceptional importance which it was desirable, in the public interest, for the Court of Appeal to determine.
Giving the appeal court’s judgment, Mr Justice Hogan said the River Nore lies downriver of the proposed wind farm and 68% of the development site drains to the freshwater mussel population.
The real concern, before the board, was that run-off from constructive would contain high levels of sediment which would ultimately seep into the river.
The board’s permission conditions sought to ensure no silt or sedimentation will enter the watercourses from the windfarm, he said.
If that was achieved, it would address the concerns of a scientific expert for the two groups.
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