Board finds Clare wind farm plan would not have significant impact on hen harriers

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for a new €6m wind farm in west Clare.

The decision to approve the four-turbine wind farm to Mid Clare Renewable Energy Ltd in the townland of Cahermurphy, Kilmihil, now results in 128 planned or permitted wind turbines in the west of the county.

However, only a very small proportion of the 128 approved to date have been completed, although construction work is continuing on the largest project — a 29-turbine wind farm for the slopes of Mount Callan.

Earlier this year, Clare County Council refused planning permission for the Cahermurphy wind farm.

The council refused planning permission for the Cahermurphy proposal due to the likely impact it may have on the protected hen harrier bird population.

In its decision to refuse planning, the council had ruled the site contained areas of habitat identified as foraging habitat for the hen harrier which is afforded protection under Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.

The local authority said it was not satisfied, based on the detail submitted with the application, that the proposed development, by itself and in conjunction with existing and permitted wind farm developments in the vicinity, would not have a significant adverse ecological impact on the habitat of the hen harriers.

However, that decision has been now overturned with the appeals board stating that the proposed development would not adversely affect the landscape, would not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of the area and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience.

The board stated its decision had regard to national policy with regard to the development of sustainable energy sources; the nature and extent of the proposed development which comprises four wind turbines in place of six previously permitted wind turbines; the character of the landscape in the area and the topography surrounding the site; the pattern of development in the area and the distance to dwellings or other sensitive receptors from the proposed development.

The appeals board also said it had regard to the inspector’s report in the case.

The inspector said there are eight operating and proposed windfarms within 12km of the study area boundary.

She stated: “I would concur with the findings of the Natura Impact Statement (NIS) that there is no potential for additional impacts on any of the European Sites for which pathways for impact were identified resulting from the cumulative effects of developments in the area.”

The inspector states that a survey recorded low number of hen harrier observed within the Cahermurphy core study area during June and July 2015.

The inspector’s report also recorded that overall impacts on hen harrier populations in the core study area during the operational phase of the project is considered to be a low probability of significant impact.

In her conclusions, the inspector reported that the site was within an area which, in the context of the development plan, was largely designated as a strategic area for wind energy development and also an area where wind energy proposals are acceptable in principle.


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