Plans for the controversial 46-turbine Emlagh Wind Farm development in North Meath have been refused by an Bord Pleanala.
Element Power had sought permission for the construction of three wind farm clusters of up to 46 wind turbines with a maximum tip height of up to 169 metres and associated turbines foundations, hardstanding areas and drainage.
An oral hearing into the application held in the Headfort Arms Hotel, Kells, last Summer lasted for five weeks with submissions from 117 individuals and groups.
The inspector who conducted the oral hearing recommended that planning be granted for the development in his report but the board voted by a majority of 4:2 to refuse permission.
The Board’s decision was made having regard to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines, the policies and objectives of the Meath County Development Plan (noting the lack of a Wind Energy Strategy in the Plan), the need to treat wind farm development in the area with particular sensitivity given the proximity of the development to a large number of houses located in the open countryside and within a network of existing villages at Moynalty, Carlanstown, Castletown, Lobinstown and in the nearby town of Kells.
Other considerations included the location of the proposed development in an area with a history of settlement and an associated legacy of places and features of cultural importance from many historical periods, the character of the receiving landscape, the scale, height and number of the proposed wind turbines, the submissions received in relation to the proposed development and the report and recommendation of the inspector.
The Board stated: “It is considered that a wind farm of the scale, extent and height proposed would visually dominate this populated rural area, would seriously injure the amenities of property in the vicinity, would interfere with the character of the landscape and would not be in accordance with the overall development objectives of the Meath County Development Plan 2013-2019.
“Furthermore, it is considered that the proposed development would not align with the Wind Energy Development Guidelines as this guidance document did not envisage the construction of such extensive large scale turbines in an area primarily characterised as a hilly and flat farmland landscape and in such proximity to high concentrations of dwellings. The proposed development would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
“In deciding not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to grant permission, the Board considered that, notwithstanding the provisions of the National Renewable Energy Action Plan, and other national and European Union policies in support of renewable energy development (including wind), the impacts of this very large development on the substantial local residential population, and the impacts of the proposed development on landscape and cultural heritage, would not be acceptable in this location. The Board further considered that the number and height of the proposed turbines would significantly exceed the landscape’s “medium potential capacity” to accommodate wind farm development as set out in the Landscape Character Assessment of the Meath County Development Plan 2013-2019.”
The decision has been welcomed by Senator Thomas Byrne, Cllr Darren O’Rourke and Deputy Helen McEntee.
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