The Irish Raptor Study Group has been granted permission to bring judicial review proceedings challenging a decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for a 19-turbine wind farm located at Meenbog near Barnesmore Gap.
The proposed development site is located in an area which is specially designated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as regionally important for the protection of Hen Harrier. While the developer in its application did not identify the presence of breeding Hen Harrier on the wind farm site IRSG volunteers had identified two pairs of breeding Hen Harrier in the same area.
Meenbog wind farm is in an area of South Donegal that supports up to seven per cent of the national breeding population of Hen Harrier in the Republic and the IRSG expressed serious concerns to An Bord Pleanála about the impact the proposed development would have on the species.
According to IRSG Chairperson Ryan Wilson-Parr the Group offered to show An Bord Pleanála exactly where these breeding sites were so that the impact on this threatened species could be fully assessed before a decision on whether to grant permission was made.
“However rather than resolving this crucial conflict of evidence, the Bord, proceeded to grant permission without regard to whether there would be an impact on the Hen Harrier breeding pairs that IRSG identified on the site,” he said.
Mr Wilson-Parr was speaking following a decision by the High Court on Wednesday allowing the Group to bring judicial review proceedings challenging An Bord Pleanála’s decision.
“In our view this is a serious breach of Ireland’s obligations under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Birds Directive, measures intended to provide a high degree of environmental protection including specific protections for the habitats of endangered bird species such as the Hen Harrier.”
Mr Wilson-Parr, Chair of IRSG said “IRSG is confident that An Bord Pleanála failed to meet its obligations under EU law regarding protection of Hen Harrier and that its decision will be set aside by the High Court”
He added: “I would like to sincerely thank Fred Logue of FP Logue Solicitors, and David Browne BL for their excellent work on this case”.
The case will return to the Court on 19 September at which point the court will set a timetable for the proceedings
The Hen Harrier is Ireland’s rarest declining resident breeding bird species and is strictly protected under the Birds Directive. These birds were once widespread in Ireland but their numbers have been declining largely due to habitat loss. There has been a 50% decline in numbers over the last 40 years.
The development, which has been proposed by Planree Ltd, will have a capacity of more than 50 MW and feature turbines with ground to blade tip heights of up to 156.5 metres (513.5 ft). The developers say the proposal has the potential to generate electricity for 29,000 households.
The project is a revision to a 49-turbine wind farm which was rejected by the Board in 2016.
Approval for the project, which had attracted strong local opposition, comes with a number of conditions, including shadow flicker requirements.
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