Horse industry groups, as well as local residents living near the Curragh, are mounting a challenge to plans to locate a large solar farm near the heart of the country’s equine industry.
The Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association (IRTA), as well as the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, are among a number of parties which have lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála against the development.
They are challenging the decision of Kildare County Council in November to grant planning permission for the development of a solar farm at Pollardstown near the Curragh by Power Capital Renewable Energy.
The company plans to develop the solar farm with a four-megawatt capacity using approximately 18,000 solar panels over a six-hectare site.
Among other parties challenging the decision are Pollardstown Residents’ Association and several well-known trainers and stud farm owners including Desmond Swan.
The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association said Co Kildare was currently home to 85 licensed trainers who did not choose their location by chance but by trying to find the most suitable environment for the needs of thoroughbred horses.
IRTA CEO Michael Grassick said the association was not opposed to solar farms in general provided their location was not in the vicinity of racing stables.
“The proposed development of Pollardstown Solar Farm is, however, within the vicinity of a significant number of our members who are concentrated in Pollardstown for very good equine and commercial reasons,” said Mr Grassick.
The IRTA said a number of training establishments were based in Pollardstown comprising 300 stables, which employed 75 people directly.
“For the Curragh to remain a centre of excellence and commercially viable, all its environs including Pollardstown need to be protected from all form of disturbance and incompatible development,” Mr Grassick said.
He warned that stables, in which trainers had invested heavily, would no longer be viable if they were in a location where horses could not rest due to noise.
“The constant noise from the solar farm will disrupt this time of rest and put in jeopardy the long-term sustainability of racing stables in the Pollardstown area,” said Mr Grassick.
By approving plans for a solar farm, the IRTA said council planners were permitting large trucks to use the same lanes used by “highly strung, valuable racehorses” walking to and from the gallops for months.
“This is jeopardising the livelihood of local trainers, not to mention the health and safety of the horses and their riders,” the IRTA said.