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In correspondence seem by The Champion, Deputy Michael McNamara told FuturEnergy Ireland that the funding promise would amount to “an ugly bribe”, if it were to be withheld in the likely event of a challenge. 

Developers told ‘honour pledges’ despite likely legal challenges

Champion Chatter

DEVELOPERS of a controversial East Clare wind farm have been urged to honour a promise to fund local sports clubs, in the event of a legal challenge to the recent grant of permission for 19 turbines on the slopes of Slieve Bearnagh. 

In correspondence seem by The Champion, Deputy Michael McNamara told FuturEnergy Ireland that the funding promise would amount to “an ugly bribe”, if it were to be withheld in the likely event of a challenge. 

The Scariff TD, who headed up the Carrownagowan Concern Group, also repeated fears originally voiced in a major submission, over the potential for landslides. In his letter to FuturEnergy – a renewable venture between Coillte and the ESB – Deputy McNamara said he was still not satisfied that those risks have been addressed. 

The Independent TD said that one of the aspects of the planning application that concerned him most was the promise by Coillte to fund local sports clubs, contingent on the applications success. He said that “such funding should have been, and should be, provided anyway given the commercial exploitation of the mountain to its environment detriment by commercial, monoculture spruce plantations, and the huge profits to Coillte as a result”.

Deputy McNamara has now called for clarity that the funding commitments will be honoured, given that “legal challenges … will inevitably be mounted”. Without that commitment, he said “the funding promise amounts to little more than an ugly bribe to locals to ignore the obvious risk of landslides”.

Almost two years after the application was made directly to An Bord Pleanála, a decision was issued last week. It granted permission for development, subject to 20 conditions, of a 750-hecatre site, which takes in the townlands of Ballydonaghan, Caherhurley, Coumnagun, Carrownagowan, Inchalughoge, Killokennedy, Kilbane, Coolready and Drummod, and will be visible from as far away as Feakle and stretches of Lough Derg. The multimillion Euro wind farm must be constructed within ten years and covers an operational phase of 30 years. 

The appeals board found that multiple impacts on the environment would be considered acceptable, subject to mitigation measures set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the conditions recommended by its planning inspector. In granting permission, the board said, “It is considered that the proposed development would accord with European national, regional and local planning policy, would make a positive contribution to Ireland’s national strategic policy on renewable energy and its move to a low energy carbon future, would be acceptable in respect of its likely effects on the environment and the likely consequences for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

Conditions require that the EIA, Natura Impact Statement and Construction Environment Management Plan be followed in full. Further conditions stipulate that the overall tip height of each turbine shall be 169 metres.

A qualified ecologist must be appointed to ensure best practice in protecting flora and fauna. A bird specialist must also be retained. Water levels must be monitored. Noise levels, shadow flicker and interference with telecommunications signals must be controlled and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) must be fully briefed.

Delivery of turbine components must be managed through a Traffic Management Plan to be agreed in writing with the planning authority. In the event of any full or partial decommissioning of the turbines, they must be removed and re-vegetation of the site must be facilitated.

Any archaeological finds must be recorded and preserved. A bond must be lodged to cover the reinstatement of public roads, where necessary. A bond must also be provided to secure the reinstatement of the site upon cessation of the project. The developer must also pay the planning authority a financial contribution “in respect of public infrastructure and facilities”. 

The planning application was made, under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, in November 2020. In November of last year, ESB and Coillte announced their joint renewables venture, FuturEnergy Ireland. The Coillte Renewable Energy Division portfolio and team transferred to the new company, including Carrownagowan Wind Farm. At that time, a spokesperson said that the Carrownagowan project team remained the same, as did all commitments made.

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. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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