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Construction of Parteen windmill catches community by surprise

Local representatives and community members are aggrieved at the recent construction of a windmill at Knockballynameath, Parteen.

A planning file was submitted on 28 May, 2010 for a single 800kW wind turbine, 73 meters high with a rotor diameter of 53 meters, and ancillary road access. No local objections were lodged, and permission was subsequently granted by the Council.

On November 25, 2015 an extension to the previously approved planning permission was granted as no site works had begun. This extension is required due to a five-year shelf life on planning decisions. This extension gave a new expiry date of 10 January, 2021.

Local concerns have been raised by a lack of awareness around the 2015 application. A zoom meeting chaired by Cathal Crowe TD (FF) noted that neither Cllr Michael Begley (IND) nor Crowe were made aware of the application at the time.

Crowe admitted he was “surprised and disappointed to see the windmill structure breaking the local skyline this week”. He believed the 2010 application had run its course and lapsed.

An application seeking a 5-year time extension to a previously granted planning permission is not subjected to the same transparency requirements. These types of applications are not overly common and planning policy does not require that they be advertised in local newspapers or erection of a site notice. A time extension application is very short being just four pages long, compared to a regular planning application form and, crucially, doesn’t allow for objections, the meeting outlined.

Complaints have also been made about set-back distances from homes in the area and also the River Shannon Special Protection Area (SPA004077). This SPA is cited as being as being “the most important wetland sites in the country” in the original 2010 planning file, justifying the construction of the turbine as it is further than 5km away. It also states that the closest neighbour is 350m from the turbine which means that it is within planning guidelines in relation to a requirement to fall under 40dB.

Deputy Crowe has since filed a case with the Planning Enforcement unit of Clare County Council. Points have been made relating to the commencement date of the construction and also the set-back distance of the windmill structure from local residences. “These points will be thoroughly analysed and responded to by Council officials next week upon the conclusion of a site visit and inspection,” he stated.