Wind farm developer challenges Donegal’s County Development Plan

The County Development Plan (CDP) in Co. Donegal is currently being revised after a wind farm developer brought judicial review proceedings against it last year.

Speaking to AgriLand, Finn Valley Wind Action chairperson Marie Scanlon said that at the time the developer, Micheal Murnane of Planree Limited, applied for planning permission to develop Meenbog Wind Farm, comprising 19 turbines, the area earmarked in south-east Donegal for the project was classed as being ‘environmentally sensitive’ in the CDP.

Prior to that, in 2016, an application for the development of a wind farm comprising 49 wind turbines – in the same area – was refused by Donegal County Council.

Scanlon says that residents in the area are currently getting their “ducks in a row” so that when the developer gears up for planning on the site, they will have their objections ready to submit.

“Donegal County Council’s CDP 2018-2024 was approved by its members in May 2018 to zone this area as ‘not open to consideration to wind farm development’ due to the proven environmental sensitivity of the area.

“Donegal CDP was challenged by the director of Planree, Michael Murnane as this rezoning was a major imposition on his plans to litter the area with turbines,” she continued.

Public consultation

Meanwhile, when the judicial proceedings were moved, the local authority in the north-west conceded defeat during a hearing at the High Court and the CDP had to be subsequently revisited.

It is now out for public consultation.

Scanlon says consultants for the developer are now in the area collating data for an extension to Meenbog Wind Farm.

She also pointed to the fact that the wind farm is in an area of south Donegal that supports up to 7% of the national breeding population of Hen Harrier in the Republic of Ireland.

“We will continue to strongly oppose any further plans and will continue to protect our area. These measures reflect the wishes of communities and elected members, and it is essential they are reapplied to the CDP in the variation process which is currently underway.

We want our area not to be zoned and not open to consideration for these types of developments.

Scanlon continued: “We are opposed to wind energy developments in our area – it is an area that is quite densely populated with houses close together – wind turbines will not work here.”

Preparatory work

Meanwhile, in a statement to AgriLand, Donegal County Council said that because of the outcome of the recent High Court challenge there was a need to initiate a process, as agreed with the elected members of council, to vary the CDP “with respect to wind energy strategies and policies”.

This process requires the publication of proposed amendments that have regard to national guidelines.

A spokesperson added: “The process is subject to public consultation before consideration of any recommendation to vary the plan by the elected members of the council.

“While preparatory work is underway, it is proposed that this process will be formally initiated in 2019.

The issue raised about the potential for challenges to policy cannot be predicted.

The local authority continued: “Donegal County Council will continue to prepare its development plans in the context of national guidelines and the requirements of the Planning & Development Act 2000 [as amended].”

AgriLand contacted Murnane for a comment, but he had not responded by the time this article was published.