Environmentalist Peter Sweetman’s challenge to a decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission for an extension to an existing wind farm in County Clare has been transferred to the fast track Commercial Court list.
The challenge is against the board’s decision to grant ESB Wind Development Ltd permission to build an additional seven turbines at a wind farm development located Boolynagleragh in West Clare, which Mr Sweetman says is “unreasoned and unreasonable,” and “contrary to law”.
“In his action Mr Sweetman claims the board granted permission for the extension without carrying out an appropriate assessment on natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna, something it is argued is contrary to both National and European law.”
Mr Sweetman seeks an order quashing the planning authority’s decision of June 13 last to grant planning permission in respect of the expansion windfarm. Permission to develop an initial nine wind turbines at the site was granted in 2010.
Mr Sweetman secured permission from a High Court judge to bring his action in August.
On Monday, the case returned before Mr Justice Brian McGovern who agreed to admit the case to the fast track Commercial Court list.
ESB Wind Development Ltd, which is a notice party to the action, applied to have the case transferred to the Commercial Court.
It sought the transfer because of the “very short timelines” in which the proposed windfarm extension “must achieve certain construction and other milestones”.
These milestones, the company says, must be reached so it can benefit from the State subsidy scheme that is the primary source of support for electricity generated from renewable sources in Ireland.
The project it is also claimed will provide 35 construction jobs during the construction phase and 1 to 2 permanent jobs when constructed.
ESB Wind Development estimates the current capital cost of delivering the initial nine wind turbines and the proposed expansion of seven turbines simultaneously as being €67m, and has to date already spent over €4.6m on the project.
Clare County Council, which turned down the extension application in 2014, are also a notice party to the proceedings.
In his action, Mr Sweetman claims the council granted permission for the extension without carrying out an appropriate assessment on natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna, something it is argued is contrary to both National and European law.
He claims the council turned down the application for an extension after its planning officer had expressed significant environmental concerns in relation to the proposed extension, including concerns about habitats.
ESB Wind Development appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanala which granted permission to the developer.
Mr Sweetman also seeks a declaration from the court that he is entitled to pursue the action at a cost that is not prohibitive.
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