An Bord Pleanála has rejected an application by a wind energy company to grant it leave to apply for “substitute consent” to enable eight turbines that have been operating beyond their planning remit in Waterford to remain in operation.
Barranafaddock Sustainable Electricity Limited (BSEL) made the application in regard to eight turbines at its windfarm in Ballyduff Upper, close to the Knockmealdown Mountains.
The development consists of 11 turbines in total, three of which are located on Coillte land and fitted with 130m blade spans.
The eight remaining turbines received planning permission for 90m blades when installation began in 2013.
In 2017, locals, concerned by what they felt was excessive noise levels, discovered that the eight blades measured 15% more than permitted, at 103m.
Last November, An Bord Pleanála rejected an application by the council to grant the development exemption status under the Planning and Development Act 2000 and decreed the windfarm an “unauthorised development”.
Waterford City and County Council issued enforcement proceedings against the developers to abide by the planning conditions.
The company responded by applying for “substitute consent” but is also seeking a judicial review of the enforcement order.
BSEL developed the windfarm but soon sold it to Element Power, which sold it on to US giant GE Electric, which completed its construction and in 2016 sold it to Black Rock, a joint enterprise between a major US Irish business interests.
An Bord Pleanála rejected the recommendation of its own inspector and said it “had regard to the nature of the development concerned, as opposed to the as-constructed windfarm”.
The board was “not satisfied” that an environmental impact assessment or an appropriate assessment was required in respect of the development concerned, “as opposed to the as-constructed wind farm itself”.
Meanwhile, it is understood that replacing the blades would effectively mean dismantling the development, possibly rendering it unsustainable.
Should this occur, the local authority could be vulnerable to legal action, given it was aware of the intention to install 103m blades but nonetheless permitted the development to proceed.
A spokesman for the council said it had served an enforcement notice, which is “subject to judicial review proceedings in the High Court”. A hearing has been set for October.