Last week Bord na Móna embarked on the “hearts and minds” phase of their campaign to develop a 25 wind turbine farm in Derryaroge Bog, Derryadd Bog and Lough Bannow Bog.
Against the backdrop of escalating energy prices the semi State body, who harvested peat across the midlands since the 1940s, hopes the public appetite for the wind farm plan has changed since it was first mooted in 2015. That iteration of the project came a cropper following a legal ruling.
In June of 2021 the High Court overturned An Bord Pleanala’s 2020 decision to grant planning permission for the 96-MW wind farm proposed by Bord na Móna Powergen Limited.
In Sweetman v An Bord Pleanála (the Derryadd decision) the Court ruled that the design envelope approach Bord na Móna submitted to planners was contrary to planning regulations.
In a nutshell the judge agreed with Mr Sweetman that the planning application did not contain the level of detail required to allow the board grant permission. The height of that proposed windfarm’s 24 turbines would have been the joint tallest structures in Ireland, with a tip height of 185 metres.
Bord na Móna returned to the drawing board and are in the process of re-submitting plans. Prior to that they have commenced their “Derryadd Wind Farm Community Engagement” meetings.
Sessions were held last week in Keenagh and Killashee, while on Tuesday (July 5) they were in Lanesborough and today (Wednesday, July 6) they attend to Newtowncashel. This isn’t the first phase either.
At the end of last month Bord na Móna made an application to An Bord Pleanála for ‘Leave to Apply for Substitute Consent’ for peat extraction and all associated bog development works. That case is due to be decided by October 26, 2022.
Although Bord na Móna would not provide a spokesperson to talk to the Leader they made arrangements to have all queries answered. In a reply to a series of questions they refer to themselves as “the climate solutions company”.
They outline how the proposed development will consist of 25 turbines and have an overall blade tip height ranging from 170 – 190 metres. The company encouraged the community to attend the sessions to meet the project team and discuss the proposed development.
Anecdotal accounts from the first two community engagement sessions suggest attendances by the public were quite low.
In their statement Bord na Móna say: “The views submitted during this consultation phase on our proposals, along with results from further studies, will help us to identify the best plan to take forward into the planning process. All feedback in relation to the proposed development will be reviewed and considered by the project team.”
They say the planning application will be lodged in early 2023 “for the proposed multi million euro development”.
Bord na Móna will submit the planning permission application directly to An Bord Pleanála. The company’s statement concluded: “The development of a wind farm on these bogs will compliment other land uses within the site and across the wider Mountdillon Bog Group, including the company’s peatland rehabilitation programme and ongoing amenity development in the area, which includes the Mid Shannon Wilderness Park.
“The proposed multi-million euro development will contribute to both Ireland’s and the European Union’s renewable energy targets. It will also contribute to increasing the security of Ireland’s energy supply and will facilitate a higher level of energy generation and self-sufficiency.”
Opposing the plans for the project is the group ‘No to Derryadd Wind Farm’. Niall Dennigan is the secretary for the group. Established in 2016 the members believe the proposed Bord na Móna development is “wrong for these bogs”.
“People are very disappointed BNM have decided to proceed with the development. The people in all surrounding communities made it very clear when BNM initially went for planning that such a development was wrong for these bogs,” Niall told the Leader.
The ‘No to Derryadd Wind Farm’ spokesperson says the opposition will proceed: “We will be continuing to oppose this development. From what we witnessed so far there will be quite an extensive amount of additional support in opposing when the time comes.”
Irish Wildlife Trust, ISPCA, and Birdwatch Ireland have all spoke of the significance of the local bog environment for species diversity.
Niall says this is one of the key factors in opposing the 190 metre wind turbines: “Bogs are one of the most important environmental tools that we have. We should be rewetting our bogs and not causing further damage. These bogs are some of the most important bogs in the Midlands as they support an enormous number of habitats.”
The opposition group secretary has little faith in the Community Engagement process: “It’s just a box ticking exercise to comply with wind energy guidelines around planning,” Niall says, “If BNM had truly listened to the peoples concerns as part of their original application then these events would simply not be happening and they would be working with communities to develop an alternative to safeguard habitats on these bogs and encourage the growth of threatened species whilst achieving energy targets.”
Niall said the group are still willing to talk to the developer about a more wholistic plan for the three bogs: “We’ve been trying to engage with BNM for years around their wind farm idea, but here we are today,” he said, “We are happy to sit down and discuss a renewable energy project that would complement the park, not go against it.”
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