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A windfarm is proposed for Carrownagowan but Further Information has been sought by An Bord Pleanala.

More time for consultation on proposed Clare windfarm

ESB Apprentice Moneypoint

THERE has been a welcome in East Clare for a period of additional consultation on a multimillion Euro windfarm proposed for the slopes of Slieve Bearnagh, writes Fiona McGarry.

Controversy surrounded the initiation public consultation phase for the Carrownagowan Windfarm, which was submitted as Strategic Infrastructure in November 2020, because public health restrictions prohibited gatherings and meetings during the window for submissions.

Over the course of last year, An Bord Pleanála sought Further Information on the 19-turbine proposal from developers, Coillte.

The board has now judged the material received to be ‘significant’, meaning that it must go on public display, with an opportunity for members of the public to make submissions on it until 5.30pm on March 14.

“The information received by An Bord Pleanála was deemed to be significant so it’s now very important that people review this material and make themselves aware of what is involved,” said
Councillor Pat Hayes.

“The period for submissions on the new information is welcome because some people felt previously that they didn’t get the chance to make their views known.”

The Fianna Fáil member said it appeared the planning board had sought information and clarification from Coillte in February of last year and again in November.

It is understood that observations from members of the public, during the initial submissions phase in early 2021 raised significant concerns about the visual impact of the turbines, the effects on wildlife and the landscape, and expressed dissatisfaction with the local consultation process.

Carrownagowan Concern Group, headed up by Deputy Michael McNamara made a major submission stating that Coillte had not fully assessed the risk of landslides; the impact on designated sites including Lough Derg Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Slieve Bernagh Bog Special Area of Conservation (SAC); or the impact on birds and other wildlife.

Under planning law, Coillte must make the additional information available to view at the offices of An Board Pleanála, Clare County Council and online.

It must also now publish newspaper notices, erect more site notices and accept public submissions until March 14.

At all stages Coillte has defended its track record on consultation, which began in 2018. It told Council members that, prior to the pandemic it had begun focusing on those living within 2km of the development site and visited 2,000 house calls.

It said it had held numerous small group meetings and a total of 19 workshops and formal gatherings. The developer also said it had made people aware of progress with the design of the wind farm and that it had shared versions of it as they were produced.

If given the green light, the windfarm would cover a 750-hecatre site, taking in the townlands of Ballydonaghan, Caherhurley, Coumnagun, Carrownagowan, Inchalughoge, Killokennedy, Kilbane, Coolready and Drummod, and would be visible from as far away as Feakle and Lough Derg.

Coillte’s application stated that the a ten-year permission is being sought “and an operational period that is not time limited, or no less than 30 years from the date of commissioning the windfarm”.

In briefing documents on the windfarm, Coillte said the development could potentially contribute up to €10 million locally, through a Community Benefit Fund (CBF), 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.

Coillte also said the windfarm will, over the course of its lifetime, offset 2.8 million tonnes of carbon. Coillte has undertaken to make the further information available on Carrownagowanplanning.ie.

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