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Objector to wind-farm development brings legal challenge

A High Court challenge has been brought over An Bord Pleanála’s categorisation of an application seeking planning permission for a wind-farm development on sites in counties Cork and Waterford.

The board has yet to decide whether or not to grant permission and the case is over its decision to categorise it as a strategic infrastructural development. The challenge is by Paddy Massey, chairman of a local residents group that opposes the proposed development involving a total of 17 turbines on the two sites.

He says the proposed development is on two separate sites, involving 11 turbines on lands in townlands including Lyrenacarriga in the administrative area of Co Waterford, and six turbines on townlands including Lyre mountain, Co Cork, to be linked by an underground electricity conductor.

The legal action is against the planning board and State while Innogy Renewables Ireland Ltd, the proposed developer, is a notice party. It centres on the board’s decision last May that the proposed development constitutes strategic infrastructure development as defined in the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006.

Fast-track consideration

Once a planning application is considered to involve strategic infrastructure, it is eligible for fast-track consideration by the board. In his action, Mr Massey alleges the proposed development is not strategic infrastructure, the board erred in agreeing to consider it as such and failed to give reasons for that decision.

Among various claims, he says the description of the proposed development as a wind farm is flawed and inadequate because it does not specify how it satisfies the criteria for strategic energy infrastructure, that is, a wind-farm installation with more than 25 turbines having a total output of more that 50 megawatts.

His case includes arguments that a provision of the planning Act is unconstitutional and contrary to EU directives because it excludes the public from participating in the consideration of whether or not a proposed development falls within the definition of strategic infrastructure under the planning Acts.

European directives

It is also claimed that public consultation provisions of relevant European directives have not been validly transposed via the Strategic Infrastructure Development Regulations.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Denis McDonald told Michael O’Donnell, for Mr Massey, with an address at Knockanore, Tallow, Co Waterford, that he was satisfied the applicant had raised the necessary substantial grounds for judicial review. The judge admitted the matter to the High Court list which fast-tracks cases concerning strategic infrastructure developments and made directions for progressing it. A hearing date will be fixed at a later stage.