A windfarm proposed for north Kerry, near the Shannon estuary, has been refused planning permission, on grounds of its potential adverse impact on the environment.
An Bord Pleanála has upheld the decision of Kerry Co Council not to sanction the development of eight wind turbines outside the village of Ballylongford.
The Ballylongford Windfarm Group, which consists of 11 landowners and a Dublin-based forestry company, The Third Irish Forestry Fund, had hoped to build the 25.6-megawatt windfarm in the townlands of Aghanagran Middle and Lower, Ballyline West, and Tullahennell South. This would have involved turbines up to 126.5 metres high and associated infrastructure, including access roads and two electricity substations,
The group also planned to connect the windfarm with an ESB substation in Tarbert, Co Kerry. The proposed site is a short distance from another recently operational windfarm, of ten turbines, at Tullahennell.
Last year, Kerry Co Council had refused planning permission for the project, on the basis that it would lead to an excessive proliferation of wind turbines on the landscape, and possibly destabilise an area of raised bog that posed a serious risk of pollution to surface waters.
The local authority also expressed concern that the development could interfere with a ringfort that is a listed monument and that it might impact on protected habitats.
An Bord Pleanála based its refusal solely on the ground that it could not be satisfied that the proposed development would not harm habitats protected under EU environmental law.
The planning appeals authority rejected the recommendation of its own inspector, who favoured granting planning permission.
The board said it was not satisfied, based on submissions made about the hydrological conditions and proximity of the Ballylongford Creek to the proposed windfarm, that adequate information had been provided about the impact of the project on protected sites.
The creek is part of the Lower River Shannon Special Area of Conservation, which aims to provide protection to existing mudflats, sandflats, reefs and Atlantic salt meadows, as well as wildlife, including common bottlenose dolphins and otters.
Other Natura 2000 sites in the area are the River Shannon and River Fergus estuaries, the Moanveanlagh bog and Stack’s to Mullaghareirk Mountains.
An Bord Pleanála said it considered a Natura impact statement would be required to remove “all reasonable scientific doubt” about potential adverse effects of the windfarm on protected sites.
The Ballylongford Windfarm Group said it believed the site of the proposed windfarm was to be in an “ordinary” landscape and would be a continuation of a trend of siting energy-related structures within the area and would therefore not look “out of place”.