By Gordon Deegan

A residents’ group is seeking to challenge, in the High Court, plans for a large-scale €175 million wind farm opposed by Kilkenny hurling great, Henry Shefflin.

Last September, An Bord Pleanála gave the go-ahead for the 21-turbine wind farm on a 1,434ha site mainly owned by Coillte, to the east of the 10-time All-Ireland winner’s native Ballyhale in south east Kilkenny.

The Castlebanny wind farm is expected to generate enough clean, green electricity to power the equivalent of around 70,000 homes annually – more than the 68,735 strong housing stock in Co. Mayo, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The wind farm is a joint venture between FuturEnergy Ireland – made up of Coillte and the ESB – and ART Generation.

Objection to Kilkenny wind farm

Henry Shefflin’s objection was one of around 70 submissions lodged with An Bord Pleanála concerning the contentious Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID).

Others to lodge objections include four-time All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny hurlers, Colin Fennelly and the Save the South Leinster Way Group.

Now, a question mark hangs over the planning permission with the Save the South Leinster Way Group and local resident, Tara Heavey seeking a High Court judicial review of the planning permission.

A statement from FuturEnergy Ireland stated that the firm acknowledged that a judicial review is being sought by Save the South Leinster Way and Tara Heavey against An Bord Pleanála in relation to planning permission granted for a wind farm in Castlebanny, Co. Kilkenny.   

A spokesperson said: “We will continue to monitor and review the relevant court application process and update project stakeholders to the extent possible thereafter.”

Various challenges

The spokesperson also confirmed that separate third-party High Court judicial review proceedings have been brought against an An Bord Pleanála’s decision concerning FuturEnergy’s plans for a 19-turbine Carrownagowan wind farm in east Clare, which will have the capacity to power 66,500 homes annually.

The judicial review applications are just two of over 90 separate High Court judicial reviews brought against An Bord Pleanála in 2022 with a sizeable number related to appeals board Strategic Housing Development (SHD) permissions.

In his original objection against the Castlebanny windfarm, Henry Shefflin told the appeals board that “the residential amenity of my home would be irrevocably compromised by the construction and operation of this wind farm”.

The three-time ‘Hurler of the Year’ and 11-time All-Star said:

“It is proposed that these turbines are up to 185m in height. Surely, it is completely unjust and unreasonable for such gigantic moving structures to be placed in such close proximity to people’s homes.”

The Shefflin objection added that “due to the enormous height and number of turbines involved, together with the proposal to build on a ridge, the visual impact of the development would be extensive and would have an extremely negative effect on the surrounding landscape, stretching into neighbouring counties”.

Shefflin stated that “the National trail, the South Leinster Way, in particular, would be greatly compromised”.

The objection by Shefflin stressed: “I am not opposed to wind energy but I am opposed to wind farms being constructed in unsuitable areas with no concern to the health or well-being of local residents.”

Both the Shefflin and Fennelly objections make identical points and the Save the South Leinster Way Group provided a template to assist locals in making their submissions.

The group’s 80 members represent mostly the 141 households that would be within 2km of the development.

As part of a 54-page submission on behalf of the Save the South Leinster Way Group, Tara Heavey contended that “it cannot be the case that communities like ours continuously pay the price for high energy demands in urban areas and abroad through the loss of our landscape and biodiversity”.

The appeals board granted planning permission after its inspector in the case, Karla McBride concluded that the proposed wind farm would not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity.