Business owners and residents in Castletroy have expressed “shock” this week after learning that a wind turbine is in the process of being erected – after planning permission was earlier refused for a larger wind turbine on the same site.
The revised plan by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care was granted planning permission last year, after plans were turned down by the local council and An Bord Pleanala a year earlier.
And on this occasion, the council’s senior planner also urged that it be refused, but his views were overridden, according to planning files. The wind turbine, which will be visible from a wide surrounding area, is currently being hoisted into the air and once operational will generate three mega watts of electricity, from a turbine with a hub height of up to 80m, down from 100m previously, and a rotor radius of up to 40m, down from 50m. It will be erected in the area of Rivers, National Technological Park in Plassey. Vistakon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, which recently made a major jobs and investment announcement in Castletroy, entered talks with the council after the first two refusals to progress their plans.
An Taisce made a submission in relation to the modified plans in which they outlined the concerns earlier expressed by both authorities. “These slight reductions in dimensions will still result in a structure of considerable visual impact and intrusion on the immediate landscape.
“At this height the potential for shadow flicker is still substantial, especially the zone within 10 rotor diameters from a turbine. This zone (800m from the turbine) contains much residential development liable to be affected by shadow flicker,” states An Taisce. A heritage officer also recommended that permission should be refused, stating “the scale is too great for an urban area” and that the turbine would have “profound visual effects on what is effectively a low rise city.”
The council’s senior planner also believed it should have been refused, but his views were over-ridden by the council manager Conn Murray, who stated that the file should be handed back to him, and it was granted on the basis that the Limerick County Development Plan 2010-2016 supports the development of renewable energy.
A shadow flicker monitoring programme shall be carried out during the first year of operation of the turbine, amongst other conditions.
The council requires a development fee of €33,000.
One of the factors earlier considered in the report of the An Bord Pleanala inspector was that the original turbine could have had an impact on the bat population of the area, including the injury or death of bats in a “worst case scenario”.
The inspector noted at that time that eight of the 10 recorded bat species in the country can be found within a 10km radius of the area.
A full bat survey was prepared, which stated that the risk to some specimens could be minor if a special buffer zone was incorporated in the plans.
Vistakon is the biggest manufacturer of contact lenses in the world, and supplies millions of euro worth of contact lenses, including the Acuvue range of daily disposable lenses, across the world each day.
No spokesperson from the company was available to comment at the time of going to print this week, but they earlier highlighted that the wind turbine would reduce its energy costs, by meeting some 15% of the plant’s demand for electricity and wind energy in a “clean and sustainable manner”.
They said it could lead to an annual avoidance of 4,120 tonnes of CO2, and “benefit the environment, economy and society.
The national planning authority earlier ruled that the overall height and scale of the turbine would “constitute an excessively visually obtrusive feature in the landscape”.
The planners also stated it would “seriously injure the visual amenities of the area” and be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development.
While they said the site is suitable in principle for the development, they had “a real concern” regarding its scale “on this restricted site given its proximity to existing businesses and houses in this well populated location”. Houses are located within 700m of the proposed site.
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