The final day of the oral hearing into the proposed development of a 24-turbine wind farm in Co. Longford took place in the Longford Arms Hotel, Friday June 14.
The hearing recommenced with Dr Gittings, Bord Na Mona, fielding questions on Whooper Swans. Dr Gittings said the data provided by Bord na Mona (BnM) in their EIAR was “sufficient proof that there was no connectivity between the northern flock of Whooper Swans in the area and Lough Ree.
This was counteracted by Mr Johnston, National Parks and Wildlife Service, who said in 2014/15 a large numbers of the birds were found on the site.
“More scientific study should have been done.” he claimed.
To which Dr Gittings replied, “If there is a roost in the Lough Ree SPA, the site is at the very limit of core foraging range.”
Dr Gittings was then questioned by the An Bord Pleanala inspector if he had a position on the availability of whooper swan habitats on the site once work had commenced, to which he was informed that BnM intended to promote/create new habitats within the first ten years of development.
“Does the EIAR or NIS come to any conclusion on habitats that will become available for swans over the next 30 years.” the inspector asked.
BnM confirmed the site will be managed to avoid effects on whooper swans going forward. They also confirmed that the collision risk model used was based on the kind of use by swans when the data was collected. Mr Johnston, NWPS, said any suitable habitat would have to be located on the peripheral of the site.
Joanne Hamilton, senior ecologist with TOBIN on behalf of BnM, was then asked by the inspector to clarify buffer zone issues surrounding lough Bannow.
“The zone has been extended as far as possible within BnM lands.” she responded.
The next issue raised was in terms of breeding curlew populations.
Mr Johnston, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) told the hearing, “The curlew is Ireland’s only red-listed species. They are the only Irish bird included on the IUCN red list.”
Before adding, “The survey method on side must be appropriate.”
He also noted that the pair observed were found in a suitable habitat for breeding, which was not included in final data of the EIAR. Mr Johnston also pointed out that the Bird Directive in use was an old piece of legislation, where the level of risks associated to certain species have changed.
Dr Gittings reiterated Bord Na Móna’s stance, “They have not found any evidence of breeding curlew.”
Dr Gittings said sightings of breeding curlew would be abundantly clear, due to their display techniques, which sees them flying up and down to attract mates.
“It would be unexpected to not detect a breeding curlew when carrying out a survey.” he said.
He admitted, however, they could be breeding off site and using the area to forage. He also requested until September to analyse data on Merlin populations.
The Inspector then sought clarity on a number of biodiversity issues, covering overall survey maps, blade lengths and bat populations. He then also touched upon archaeological/cultural issues.
BnM confirmed, “Time and funding will be provided to ensure these areas are observed.” in an archaeological sense.
In terms of hydrology, BnM confirmed that drainage channels on the bogs were not macroinvertebrate sampled, but say they have no objection working with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to locate places to carry out said sampling. The inspector then questioned as to why the water framework directive was not used in results, before asking whether noise reduction modes were considered for the proposed turbines.
BnM responded saying they were not needed and they would “only go there in terms of mitigation”.
They were also asked as to why a 40Db limit was applied, to which Mark Hogan on behalf of BnM responded, “the DB levels proposed are very conservative”.
Niall Dennigan, PRO No to Derryadd group, then pointed to recent evidence of residents in close proximity to the Sliabh Bawn development, suffering from excessive noise. Strobing issues were also discussed, with BnM representatives confirming the finish now applied to the turbines, restricts this. Mark Hogan said the risk of someone suffering seizures due to strobing or flickering was one in 10 million or “virtually nil”.
Further clarification was sought then by the inspector on foundation details and traffic. In terms of traffic, the issue of the proposed amenity park was raised. BnM confirmed it will not be developed into a car park as previously proposed and said the TII are happy with updated plans.
“TII appeared to be happy on an informed basis.” they noted.
The fire risk associated to batter storage was the next issue, with questions over whether the potential severity of any potential fire-related event had been examined.
BnM responded, “Hazard mitigation analysis will be carried out.”
Before adding, “The storage facility is 400m from the nearest receptor.”
The final clarification was sought from Michael Keeting, in terms of Whooper swan sightings. He confirmed dates of sightings at the Annaghbeg townland, 500m from the proposed T11 turbine. The inspector in charge confirmed that the accuracy of said accounts were not up for dispute.
The hearing concluded with closing statements from all parties, starting with the opposition to the development. Donal Mac An Bheatha, Senior executive planner with Longford County Council, went back on comments made in yesterday’s hearing in which he issued the council’s support to the project, provided certain conditions were met.
Upon hearing yesterday’s evidence on the potential environmental impact of the development, Mr Mac An Bheatha went back on the support he previously issued, stating he was unaware that there were as many potential environmental impacts.
A decision on the oral hearing is due to be made by July 31, 2019.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding