The Bracklyn Wind Farm Ltd’s application to erect nine wind turbines in the Bracklyn area – ruled to be a strategic infrastructure development – has been approved by An Bord Pleanála – but locals have vowed that the war is not yet over.
“We intend to fully challenge this decision,” said Daryl Kennedy, spokesperson for Delvin Raharney Ballivor Wind Action Group this week.
“This decision by An Bord Pleanála will… change our local landscape for life, essentially,” he said, stating that the group see the wind farm as “the wrong renewable energy technology in the wrong location”.
The firm’s intention is to erect the nine turbines across a 273-hectare stretch of the Bracklyn Farm Estate at Ballagh, Billinstown, Ballynacar and Bracklyn, and also to erect an electricity substation of 622 sq metres. The turbines are to have a hub height of 104 metres and a rotor diameter of 162 metres providing an overall tip height of 185 metres and a projected maximum output of up to 54 megawatts.
The site on which they are to be located is around 2.7km south of Delvin, and 4km north of Raharney.
The Natura Impact Statement submitted with the application reveals there is a total of 125 turbines existing, consented or in review within 45 kilometres of the proposed development, and another 26 turbines proposed for a nearby Ballivor Wind farm.
The permission also provides for 6.3km of 110kV underground electricity lines and two lattice type end masts to link in with the 110kV Mullingar – Corduff overhead electricity transmission line. Part of the underground grid connection traverses the boundary into Meath.
“It is of the wrong scale and proportion relative to our rural flat landscape,” said Darryl, adding that the community group felt strongly that via more than 20 submissions to An Bord Pleanála, compelling points and arguments were made in relation to the overall negative impact of what he described as “this monstrous development”.
“However, the planning inspector and the board clearly did not take these seriously,” he said.
“Community engagement” will be required to change the decision, he continued, adding that community meetings will be organised over coming weeks.
The planning permission granted to the project promoters remains live for 10 years; the promoters indicated to An Bord Pleanála that construction is likely to take 15-18 months. The planning permission allows the turbines to remain in place for 30 years.
In granting permission, the board imposed 24 conditions on the developers, whose address is c/o Galetech Energy Services, Clondargan, Stradone, County Cavan .
The planning inspector, in his report admitted the wind farm will have a “significant” visual impact and that the turbines will be discernible in an area of up to 15-20km.
“However,” he said, “the surrounding lands, particularly in the receiving environment in the immediate study area (within 5km) are not considered to be sensitive in visual amenity terms.”
He stated in his comments that national policy was that significant increases in wind energy capacity will be required to meet the mandatory targets set out in the national targets on climate change.
Addressing the argument that the development was premature pending the adoption of the 2019 guidelines and the adoption of wind policy guidance in the Westmeath Development Plan, the inspector said his view, which was in line with national policy, was that renewable energy projects “must be delivered as a matter of utmost priority”, and that there is sufficient national and international policy to allow for this in the absence detailed local policy.
The inspector said that the proposed development would have a negligible impact on biodiversity and that in any case any proposals to further reduce the potential impact on biodiversity would have significant implications in terms of delaying the project and therefore would contribute to undermining the ambitious targets set out in the Climate Action Plan.
He adjudged that the noise impact arising from the proposed development during the operational phase would comply with both the noise criteria set out in the 2006 Wind farm Guidelines and also the criteria set out in the Draft 2019 Guidelines.
On shadow flicker, the inspector said the applicants acknowledged that technological mitigation is available, so he recommended that a condition be attached which limited or curtailed the operation of the turbines during the probable infrequent periods where shadow flicker occurs.
He said he was satisfied that the applicant has undertaken detailed and vigorous analysis of the potential impacts of the proposed development on residential amenity in the area and is satisfied that any potential impact will not be significant and would be acceptable.
The inspector also said that he “fully acknowledged” that there would be some impact on the setting and context of the protected structures and recorded monuments within the vicinity of the site, but he stated that found that because of the distance between the turbines and the protected structures and recorded monuments, the structural integrity of the monuments will not be damaged.
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