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Council turns down planning for West Clare windfarm

A SECOND wind farm application for the development of eight large wind turbines about 6.5 kilometres from Miltown Malbay, which was previously involved in High Court proceedings, has been refused by Clare County Council.
Clare County Council has turned down plans by Slieveacurry Limited for permission for a ten-year planning permission for the construction of a renewable energy development, which would have had a 30-year operational life from the time of full commissioning, if it had secured the necessary planning approval.
Notwithstanding the location of the site on lands identified as “strategic” for windfarm developments, the planning authority considered the proposed turbine structures by reason of their height, scale and siting on this open and exposed upland landscape would constitute a prominent feature on the landscape from both local and long range viewpoints.
When assessed in conjunction with existing and permitted wind turbines in the area, the local authority considered the proposed development would give rise to an excessive proliferation of wind turbines at this location, which would negatively alter the character of this rural landscape.
In its refusal decision, the authority stated the development would seriously injure the visual amenities of the area, would contravene Objective CDP 13.2 of the County Development Plan and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area. “It is an objective of the Clare County Development Plan to strike an appropriate balance between facilitating renewable and wind energy related development and protecting the residential amenities of neighbouring properties.
“Having regard to the scale and height of the proposed turbines, the location of the site on this open landscape and the proximity to existing residential properties, it is considered that the consequent noise and disturbance generated from the proposed wind turbines in combination with existing and permitted wind farms would seriously injure the amenities of the residential property in the vicinity.
“It is considered the proposed turbines would be visually overbearing on existing properties and thus depreciate the value of property in the vicinity.”
The authority outlined one of the policies of the Clare County Development Plan is to ensure the protection and conservation of areas, sites, spaces and ecological networks/corridors of local biodiversity value outside of designated sites throughout the county.
“On the basis of information received to date, the authority is not satisfied that the proposed development, by itself and in conjunction with the cumulative impact with existing and permitted wind farm developments in the vicinity, will not have a significant adverse ecological impact on the habitat of the Hen Harrier, listed as Annex One species of the Birds’ Directive.
“It is considered therefore, that the proposed development would contravene objective CDP 14.7 of the County Development Plan.”
The authority also expressed dissatisfaction with the management of peat on site, in particular with respect to the access roads and the forestry felling associated with the development and felt it could have an adverse impact on ground instability or hydrological impacts.
In its submission to the planning authority, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht and Sport, expressed concern about the potential impact on the Hen Harrier where the status of same is outlined and the survey dates from 2016 and 2017.
It stated the authority should be satisfied there is no potential impact on peat stability, as potential spillage could have impacts on ground and surface water.
It advised in this regard the wind farm is likely to cause changes in patterns of surface water flow and may desiccate the peat allowing pathways to open and result in subsurface losses.
It recommended a review of the Peat Stability Risk Assessment in consideration of the Shass Mountain Peat Landslide Factual report.
In its submission, the Irish Aviation Authority stated the applicant should be directed to engage with the Shannon Airport Authority and IAA’s air navigation service provider ANSP to assess the impact of the proposed wind farm on Shannon Airport’s obstacle limitation surfaces, flight procedure, communication, navigation and surveillance equipment.
On January 6th, the local planning authority was due to make a decision on the first planning application lodged by Slieveacurry Renewable Energy Development to construct eight wind turbines with a maximum overground to blade height of up to 574 feet on land about 6.5 kilometres east of Miltown Malbay.
The wind farm was earmarked for Glendine North, Fahanlunaghta More, Curraghodea, Letterkelly, Cloghaun More, Cloghaun Beg and Silverhill in the event it secured planning permission.
However, the local authority was obliged to defer this decision before the normal due date after Justice Hyland granted North Clare civil engineer, Michael Duffy leave to apply for Judicial Review on December 23.
The council wrote to 90 residents, including Green Party Councillor Susan Crawford, the Miltown Malbay Windfarm Opposition Group; Wind Aware, Coore; Cahermurphy Two Opposition Group, Cree; Birdwatch Ireland; an environmental health officer at the HSE, Ennis; the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Irish Aviation Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Shannon Airport Authority informing them of the deferral of its planning decision.

by Dan Danaher

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