A community development group has won permission from the High Court to pursue its challenge to a towering wind farm planned for one of West Cork’s most scenic areas, Gougane Barra.
Following the ruling on Wednesday, Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha ‘n Ghaorthaidh will now have a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission for the biggest wind turbines ever proposed in Co Cork.
An Bord Pleanála gave the green light to the controversial €30million wind farm project in February, after it had been unanimously rejected by Cork County Council.
The planned development involves the construction of turbines up to 178.5m high, which would be visible on the Gougane Barra skyline – something the community group said would ‘alter the magic and tranquillity of this unique place of peace and pilgrimage forever’.
Supporting infrastructure would include a 38kV electricity substation, battery banks, quarries, deforestation, access roads, site drainage and widening of an access junction on the Shehy Mountains overlooking Gougane Barra and the Pass of Keimaneigh.
The planning board said the development ‘would make a positive contribution to the implementation of Ireland’s national strategic policy on renewable energy and its move to a low-energy carbon future’.
It also said it ‘did not agree that the proposed development would detract from the existing character of the area’.
However, objectors said the turbines and their red warning lights would be seen from a number of angles day and night, and that there would also be ‘constant noise and flicker from them’.
In the petition, on Change.org, the community group stated: ‘We fully support the need to make fast progress on renewable energy; there are already more than 35 turbines visible from the hills around Ballingeary village, just a few kilometres from Gougane Barra.
‘However, as stated by TD for North Cork Aindrias Moynihan in the Dáil: “You cannot make another Gougane Barra but you can find other locations for a wind farm.”‘ Over 10,000 people, from over 40 countries, have signed the group’s petition, which was directed to the Government, TDs and An Bord Pleanála.
The group stated: ‘We urge decision-makers to rethink the irrevocable im pact this project would have on this unspoilt treasure which holds such a special place in the hearts of Irish people and many others around the world.’
In its refusal, Cork County Council had said that the development would materially contravene the objectives of the Cork County Development Plan and ‘would be excessively domineering from very many vantage points over a wide area’.
The group noted that the ruling also ran contrary to the recommendation of An Bord Pleanála’s own senior planning inspector, who said: ‘This is a development that would have significant adverse environmental and visual impacts and is not sustainable at this highly sensitive location.’
The group has raised €31,000 towards its legal battle, but having been granted permission to take the judicial review, it will now have to raise another €65,000. Campaign spokesman Neil Lucey, of the Gougane Barra Hotel, said: ‘We are very pleased to have been given leave to appeal the decision of An Bord Pleanála in this case.
‘We are hopeful of a good result in the upcoming judicial review, and that this will become a legal landmark for future cases of this nature,’ he said.
‘We invite everyone touched by the magic of Gougane Barra to join us in this fight to preserve it for future generations.’
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