A decision on a major windfarm project proposed for the slopes of Slieve Bearnagh in North East Clare will not now be made before 2022, The Champion has learned.
The 19-turbine plan from Coillte is currently being assessed by An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
The board has confirmed that it has now asked the company for significant further information on a number of aspects of the project, including its environmental impact.
The initial phase for public submissions closed early last February, with the appeals board originally indicating that a decision on the windfarm might be made in June.
It is understood that observations from members of the public have raised significant concerns about the visual impact of the turbines, the effects on wildlife and the landscape, as well as dissatisfaction with the local consultation process – much of which was hampered by lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings.
A spokesperson for An Bord Pleanála outlined that Coillte now has until January of 2022 to provide it with the requested information.
Under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, the board will assess that documentation early next year. If it considers that it contains significant additional information on the environmental impact of the proposed windfarm, the board may then make this available for public inspection and invite further submissions on the application. Such a process would be likely to extend well into 2022.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor Joe Cooney, confirmed the extension to the planning process and said Coillte will respond to An Bord Pleanála by next January.
“It is good so see that the board is giving such careful thought and consideration to this major application,” Councillor Cooney said.
“The decision to ask Coillte for more information on the environmental impact of the windfarm is in the interests of the community and the locality.”
If given the green light, the windfarm would cover a 750-hecatre site, taking in the townlands of Ballydonaghan, Caherhurley, Coumnagun, Carrownagowan, Inchalughoge, Killokennedy, Kilbane, Coolready and Drummod, and would be visible from as far away as Feakle and Lough Derg.
Coillte’s application stated that the a ten-year permission is being sought “and an operational period that is not time limited, or no less than 30 years from the date of commissioning the windfarm”.
In briefing documents on the windfarm, Coillte said the development could potentially contribute up to €10 million locally, over the lifetime of the windfarm.
It has predicted the creation of 100 jobs, during the construction phase, as well as a potential rates contribution to Clare County Council of between €638,400 and €1.3 million.
The documentation submitted to An Bord Pleanála to-date by Coillte is available to view on Carrownagowanplanning.ie. Virtual tours of the proposed project, as currently configured, are available on Carrownagowanwindfarm.ie.
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