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 at Meenbog close to the Barnesmore Gap.
An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission in June to applicant Planree for the development of 19 156.5 metre tip height wind turbines in the townlands of Meenbog, Croaghonagh, and Cashelnavean.
The wind farm application was made following the refusal of an application for 49 wind farms in the same area over three years ago. That decision cited the failure of the application to assess the potential impact of the proposed development on populations of birds. 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.
The Irish Raptor Study Group said that 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.
The Meenbog wind farm is in an area of South Donegal that supports up to 7% 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.
IRSG Chairperson Ryan Wilson-Parr said: “IRSG 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.
“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.
“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. I would like to sincerely thank Fred Logue of FP Logue Solicitors, and David Browne BL for their excellent work on this case”.
The IRSG is a voluntary organisation that specialises in the deployment of volunteer fieldworkers with specialised skills in the identification and survey of birds of prey in Ireland.
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