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Farmer wins orders overturning consent for grid connection from wind farm

A farmer has won High Court orders on consent overturning a decision to grant consent to the ESB for a grid connection between a Co Cork wind farm and an electricity sub-station.

Ian Collins, of Maulakieve, Bantry, had brought proceedings against An Bord Pleanála and the State aimed at overturning the decision made in June 2020.

The board granted the ESB substitute consent for a 9.7km section of grid connection between the Derreenacrinning West Windfarm at Drimoleague and a sub-station on the transmission line at Ballylickey.

On Monday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys was told the sides had agreed an order could be made quashing that decision, and also quashing a consent for the remaining sections of the grid connection, comprising 3.2kms underground cabling ducting and associated electrical cabling, 1.2km of overhead line and ancillary works intended to complete the grid connection to the Ballylickey substation.

A core ground of the challenge was that the decision to grant substitute consent was premised on an earlier decision to grant leave to apply for substitute consent which took place without public participation.

Mr Collins said a Supreme Court decision of July 2020, in proceedings brought by An Taisce against An Bord Pleanála and the State, had concluded the failure to make provision for public participation at the leave application stage of substitute consent is inconsistent with the public participation rights conferred by and outlined in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.

He alleged illegality of the initial decision deprived the board of jurisdiction to make the subsequent decision.

The grounds of challenge also included claims the board was not entitled to grant leave to the ESB to apply for substitute consent when the application was made by ESB Networks.

Further claims included that the effects of breaking the planning consents for the development into what was effectively three separate elements – the wind farm, the constructed grid line and the unconstructed sections of grid line meant Mr Collins had been denied the opportunity to participate in a process that assessed the complete development.

The breaking up of the project in that manner meant information was not accessible electronically from any one location, he also argued.