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Permission Granted For Cloghan Wind Farm Despite Inspector's Concerns

Thursday, 10 November 2016

CLOGHAN wind farm has been given the green light by An Bord Pleanala despite original concerns by the adjudicating inspector.
Previously the inspector with the State planning appeals board had recommended refusing permission for the proposed development in Cloghan, Co. Offaly.
Gaeltech Energy was initially granted permission by Offaly County Council in October 2014 to erect nine turbines with a hub height of 100 metres, a typical rotor diameter of 103 metres (an overall maximum tip height 150m) at Stonestown, Kilcamin, Crancreagh and Derrinlough which also included an attachment of up to nineteen conditions.
Furthermore the application had also included permission for site development works of one temporary site compound area (697 sq metre), turbine foundations, crane hardstandings, access tracks, underground cabling, upgrades to existing site entrance off the N62, the construction of a 38kV switch room and a control facility (94 sq metre) with associated equipment and compound area enclosed by a 2.4 metre high palisade fence.
The latest application by Gaeltech had represented a reduced proposal from the previous scheme proposed for the site which was refused by An Bord Pleanála in December 2013.
Six parties appealed Offaly County Council's decision in October 2014, including a number of local residents and Bord Na Mona with the matter then being referred to the State planning appeals board.
Following the appeal a report was conducted by inspector Brid Maxwell and released in February 2015, concluded they would recommend refusal, saying that it would be 'excessively dominant and visually obtrusive to the area.'
After seeking further information from Gaeltech and receiving what a Bord official described as 'significant information' on November 11th 2015 from the applicants agent, the board requested that the inspector prepare an addendum report.
Board members subsequently decided by a majority vote of 5/2 to grant permission for the development by the Cavan based company at Stonestown, with twenty revised conditions attached two years after their first request.
The latest order states 'In deciding not to accept the inspector's recommendation in relation to visual impact, the board was satisfied that the revised layout, height and design, including a reduction in the number of turbines proposed, adequately addressed its previous concerns, including an increased separation distance provided to Cloghan village.'
Moreover the board 'accepted that the proposed development would be prominent from some locations, however, it was considered that the revised layout is more coherent in local views, where visual impact is more pronounced due to proximity and visibility is also reduced at other locations.'
It is considered that the resulting visual impact is acceptable, including views from scenic and/or amenity routes, protected views and the Lough Boora Parklands Area of High Amenity, by itself and in cumulation with other existing and permitted wind energy development in the vicinity.
The Board claimed it was 'satisfied' that the photomontages are sufficiently representative of views in the area, and did not share the inspector's concerns that further assessment would be required in relation to private dwellings or Clonmacnoise.
The first report of the Inspector had also recommended a further reason for refusal in relation to the proposed grid connection.
The Board considered the additional information received from the applicant in relation to the two alternative proposals for the grid connection, and the submissions made on file following public consultation on this matter. The Board concurred with the analysis and conclusions set out in the inspector's second report and was again 'satisfied' that no significant environmental impacts would arise, in relation to the grid connection itself, or in relation to the proposed development in cumulation or indirectly as a result of the grid connection.
However, it is believed local residents are planning to apply for a judicial review following the decision by An Bord Pleanala, which must be made by the middle of December.

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