A local group has lost its challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s permission for a €46m wind farm close to the village of Lixnaw in Co Kerry.
The North Kerry Wind Turbine Awareness Group had asked the High Court to overturn the board’s July 2016 decision granting an appeal by Stacks Mountain Windfarm Ltd against Kerry County Council’s refusal of permission for 10 wind turbines.
The group claimed the proposed development did not comply with requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Habitats Directive.
It relied on a significant Court of Appeal judgment of 2014 dealing with the board’s obligations, arising from a decision of the Court of Justice of the EU, to provide an “appropriate assessment” under the Habitats Directive.
The developer, joined to the case as a third party, successfully applied last November to have it fast-tracked in the Commercial Court, saying the overall scheme will cost €46m and it was anxious to avoid serious delays.
In his judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Brian McGovern upheld the board’s decision as clear, properly reasoned and in accordance with law.
He rejected arguments the board failed to carry out or record any proper appropriate assessment or any proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), contrary to national and European law.
The board did conduct an appropriate assessment and, when doing so, had a Natura Impact Statement and additional documents, he said. That material was sufficient to assess the potential impact of the wind farm on all relevant European sites and there was no lacuna in the information before the board.
The Environmental Impact Statement accompanying the planning application addressed and appraised the environmental impact of the wind farm and the board also got an EIS addendum addressing and appraising the environmental impact of the grid connection, he said.
There is no legal requirement in the Planning and Development Act 2000 that the board’s decision include a written statement of what the EIA comprises, he held.
Once the decision and documents referred to made clear to how the EIA was arrived at, that met the board’s obligations.
He dismissed other claims the EIA was inadequate for alleged failure to deal with the issue of noise. The board’s inspector was entitled to reverse his original concerns about noise issues and had set out the reasons for that, he said.
Apart from the noise issue, it was “notable” this application raised “nothing of substance” in terms of any particular environmental concern or impact, he said.
He also dismissed claims the permission involved a material contravention of an objective of the Co Kerry development plan concerning wind turbines.
That objective was not to permit development of wind farms in areas designated “open to consideration” in the Tralee and Listowel districts pending full assessment of the cumulative effect of all permitted turbines in the vicinity.
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