Wind farms: ‘Local authority did not address the issues involved’
Hundreds of south Wicklow residents who will be impacted by the outcome of an appeal with An Bord Pleanála – in respect of a wind farm development – remain in a state of “anxious expectation” this week, a local opponent to the development has said.
Richard More-O’Ferrall – secretary of the South Wicklow Wind Action Group (SWWAG) – said residents in the area of the Ballymanus project – ABO Wind and Coillte – objected to the grounds on which planning permission was refused by Wicklow County Council in 2016.
The developer also appealed the decision and now both parities are awaiting the verdict from An Bord Pleanála.
It is a saga that first began in 2014 in an area of Co. Wicklow where More-O’Ferrall said he and his neighbours “appreciate and enjoy peaceful lives in an unspoiled rural area, undisturbed by noise, light pollution, visual intrusion and adverse environmental effects”.
A wind farm there would result in adverse environmental effects far removed from the clean, green harvesters of free wind energy I had – up to then – naively believed them to be.
He added: “The event proved to be the spark that lit the fire from which SWWAG ultimately emerged.”
Plan of action
O’More-Ferrall went on to say that throughout 2014 residents became aware that the Ballymanus project was progressing towards a formal planning application. When a public consultation was announced in November of that year, he, alongside others, went along to hear what the developers had to say.
“Plans, many photo-montages and documents – including a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – were displayed.”
He continued: “We observed that the proposal included 12 turbines 150m tall and soon thereafter the required site notices appeared and the planning application was subsequently lodged.”
Meanwhile, SWWAG organised a public meeting for January 2015 so that people living in the area could air their views on the development.
Over 300 people turned up and the issues were discussed.
“Key points for objection letters were circulated and a series of letter collection evenings announced. By the deadline for submissions two weeks later, well over 400 were received and delivered to Wicklow County Council’s planning department,” O’More-Farrell continued.
As far as we can establish this was a record number for a rural planning application anywhere in the country.
Later that year, Wicklow County Council refused planning permission.
‘Try and try again’
However, according to O’More-Ferrall, the developer modified the initial proposal and applied for planning permission for an 11-turbine entity to the local authority in mid-2017.
“Prior to that the developer made an effort to make one-to-one contact with impacted householders – the majority of whom refused to engage.”
He continued: “The planning was lodged again and it was met with a barrage of local objections.
“Again, permission was refused but this time for reasons – that SWWAG considered – to be a failure to fully address the substantive issues involved.
“Accordingly, both SWWAG and ABO submitted appeals to An Bord Pleánala in September 2017 and as of March 29, 2019, the matter has remained undecided for 18 months.”