An Bord Pleanála has decided to refuse substitute consent for a controversial wind farm in Co. Galway.
In 2003, there was a major landslide at the Derrybrien wind farm as it was being constructed by a subsidiary company owned by the ESB, which had “significant effects on the environment”.
The 70-turbine wind farm is located in the northern part of the Slieve Aughty Mountains.
In November 2019, Ireland was fined €5 million in the European Court of Justice for the state’s failure to carry out an environmental impact assessment at the site.
Since then, a further €15,000 a day has been added to that fine by the court meaning that the Irish taxpayer is currently facing a €17 million fine.
Substitute consent seeks retrospective planning permission for a project that is not compliant with EU law and is granted by the planning board in “exceptional circumstances”.
However, An Bord Pleanála has refused the ESB’s application pointing to the “unacceptable direct and indirect residual effects on the environment” as a result of the 2003 landslide.
The board said that remedial works carried out at the site could not mitigate the environmental impact which it said was “clear, profound and unacceptable”.
It added that “the development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
Galway East Sinn Féin representative Louis O’Hara welcomed the ruling of An Bord Pleanála, describing it as “the only reasonable decision” in the wake of the landslide which had “a devastating effect on the environment and local community”.
“The board reached this decision because remedial works carried out since the 2003 landslide did not fully mitigate the significant effects caused to the environment.
“This confirms the findings of the report published by the EU Commission last summer which highlighted a number of issues with the substitute consent application,” he said.
O’Hara added that the decision raises serious questions about the ESB’s handling of this issue over the last two decades and he called for accountability.
“It is a shocking way for a state-owned company to act and lessons must be learned from this,” he stated.
O’Hara also said that an outstanding turf cutting issue on the site needs to be resolved as soon as possible.