Wind farm plan rejected over environmental concerns

WINDFARM OPPOSITION . . . Local residents of Clonfert who werethe proposed windfarm Greg McDonagh, Lily McDonagh, Jarlath McEvoy, Cllr Donal Burke, Joe McDonagh, Bernadette McCormack. Photo: Gerry Stronge.

Residents in East Galway have won their battle to prevent a wind farm in their area after the development was turned down – on environmental grounds and in particular the potential impact it would have on local rivers as well as wildlife in the area.

It was claimed that the five-turbine wind farm would be taller than The Spire in O’Connell Street and would have an adverse impact on the Brown Long-eared Bats which roost in the area during the maternity process while it is also a location as a Barn Owl nest site

When planning permission was granted by Galway County Council for the wind farm near Eyrecourt, there was uproar amongst local residents who came together to appeal this decision. Their appeal has now been successful.

It was proposed to provide a wind farm in the townlands of Lisbeg, Coolcarta East, Annaghcorrib and Coolcarta West.

The wind farm would have five turbines and the developers undertook to upgrade local roads.

While county planners granted permission for the wind farm to the applicants Fran O Domhnaill and Richard Bourns, the application had been subject to 40 submissions, mainly from local residents, who voiced their against the development.

They had raised concerns in relation to noise, visual impact, shadow flicker, health, traffic implications, the impact it would have on wildlife and local rivers while they also argued that it would devalue property in the locality and have an impact on tourism.

The applicants argued that there was no suitable roosting habitat in the immediate area of the proposed development. They said that the wind farm would not affect some of the bird species identified in the opposition to the development.

It was also stated by the applicants that the site is located around 2.5 kilometres from the nearest floodplain and is separated by a cut over bog.

They said that the Barn Owl nests over two kilometres away and there is no longer evidence to support the presence of the aforementioned Brown Long-eared Bats.

The local residents appealed this decision to An Bord Pleanala who ruled in their favour and overturned the decision of Galway County Council, mainly on the basis of its location Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection areas.

The Planning Appeals Board ruled that the wind farm would also be in close proximity to the River Suck, Middle Shannon Callows and Little Brosna Callows which are designated for their importance to wintering and migratory birds, wetland birds and waterfowl.

“The wind farm site is potentially used and over flown by a range of bird species that are listed as conservation interests for these nearby Special Protection Areas and the proposed development would cause a disturbance and pose a potential collision risk to these species which include the Whooper Swan, Lapwind and Golden Plover,” An Bord Pleanala stated.

The Board were also not satisfied that the proposed development would not have an adverse impact on environmentally sensitive sites in the immediate area.

Local FF councillor Donal Burke also expressed concerns over the development. “The area around Clonfert is low-lying and is classified as a low wind speed area.

The proposed turbines would be among the tallest in the country to date, with a maximum overall blade tip height of 169 metres and residents have concerns about the effect of these on families living nearby and on the landscape,” he said.

The Fianna Fail councillor said that, to put it into perspective, the turbines would be 47 metres higher than The Spire in Dublin’s O’Connell Street.