Members of a Cork community encircled by wind farms “in a 360-degree radius” have lodged an appeal against a planning decision on seven turbines near picturesque Gougane Barra, just as news emerged of another 12 planned nearby.
Ballingeary development committee, Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh, took its concerns over a wind farm and battery storage facility at Curraglass, less than 3km from Gougane Barra, direct to An Bord Pleanála on Tuesday, hand-delivering an appeal to the planning body’s Dublin headquarters.
Plans also came to light this week for ‘Gortyrahilly Wind farm’, a 12-turbine development by Coillte Renewable Energy and SSE Renewables near the Mouth of the Glen, in a scenic area between Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh and Baile Mhúirne.
Public consultation and an environmental impact assessment are about to begin on another new development, which is in the early planning stages.
With wind farms also at Grousemount, Shehy, and a stalled nine-turbine project at nearby Cleanrath, development committee chairman Tadhg Ó Duinnín described Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh as being “absolutely surrounded” by turbines “in a 360-degree radius around us”.
“This community has had to take more than its fair share of them.”
The committee’s appeal concerns the grounds on which Cork County Council last month refused planning permission for a seven-turbine wind farm, electricity substation, and battery storage containers at Curraglass, close to the Pass of Keimaneigh, on the site of a previous, now-defunct wind farm.
The application by Wingleaf Ltd was turned down on grounds including the “excessive height” of the planned turbines, whose blades measure up to 178.5 metres; their visual impact on six scenic routes; and proximity to the “key tourist attraction” of Gougane Barra.
A petition organised by the development committee in Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh, 5.5km from the proposed Curraglass wind farm, highlighted fears of potential fire and toxic smoke hazards associated with the battery storage facility, as well as the turbine height and concentration of wind farms in the area.
The petition attracted almost 500 signatures, while members of the public also donated over €1,000 towards the price of the committee’s appeal and legal costs.
Amid fears of an appeal by Wingleaf, the development committee handed in its own appeal to An Bord Pleanála, just hours before Tuesday’s deadline.
The committee’s move came due to concerns that the issues it raised over the safety of battery storage facilities did not feature among the county council’s reasons for planning refusal.
Mr Ó Duinnín said: “When the council rejected the planning they rejected it on the grounds that the wind turbines were too tall and they could be seen from all around, and that this size of turbines wasn’t good for the area, but they didn’t mention the batteries, and they’re an unknown quantity.
“We’re appealing the response from the council, saying they should have mentioned the batteries,” he said.
“If we do not do this the developer can appeal against the refusal without having to make any safety case whatsoever because the planners did not raise this issue when they refused the developer’s first application.”
Wingleaf is an affiliate company of Lissarda-based Enerco Energy and its directors are Michael and David Murnane.
A previous application for four battery storage units at Curraglass, by Redfaze Ltd, also based in Lissarda, was refused permission by Cork County Council last November and an appeal was subsequently rejected.
Development committee member Tim Twomey, who hand-delivered around 600 pages of documentation relating to its new appeal, said: “The Cork County Council planning officer dismissed the argument about fire safety by reference to An Bord Pleanála’s previous rejection of the [Redfaze] appeal for the batteries only.”
He referred to the report in April this year of An Bórd Pleanála senior planning inspector Pauline Fitzpatrick, which stated: “I am not aware of any documentary evidence of battery storage units being susceptible to fire hazard as contended by observers.”
The development committee has also submitted observations and a community petition to An Bord Pleanála relating to substitute planning consent for Cleanrath Windfarm, which was constructed last year despite being the subject of a Supreme Court appeal.
A decision is due by December 17 on the application by Cleanrath Windfarm Ltd, another Murnane subsidiary, for nine turbines with a blade height of 150 metres.
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