A windfarm planned for a scenic area near Gougane Barra has been refused planning permission by Cork County Council.
Wingleaf Ltd had applied for permission for a seven-turbine windfarm, electricity substation, and battery storage containers at Curraglass, close to the Pass of Keimaneigh, on the site of a previous now-defunct windfarm.
Wingleaf is an affiliate company of Lissarda-based Enerco Energy and its directors are Michael and David Murnane.
The plans were turned down on grounds including the “excessive height” of the turbines, which have blades measuring up to 178.5 metres.
The development, according to the planning refusal, would materially contravene the objectives of the Cork County Development Plan and “would be excessively domineering from very many vantage points over a wide area”.
The planners raised concerns in particular over the visual impact of the development when seen from six scenic routes, including the Ballingeary to Bantry road via Kealkill, as well as from part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The planned windfarm would, the refusal stated: “provide for a highly intrusive, visually domineering form of development that debases the integrity and the landscape character, that would seriously and unnecessarily injure the High Value Landscape areas”.
Notably, the planners also expressed concern that giving the go-ahead for the Curraglass development could set a precedent for other applications replacing older, smaller windfarms with new larger turbines.
To permit the Wingleaf development, they stated, “would act as a catalyst for other inappropriate and similar windfarm developments of excessive turbine height when ‘repowering’ windfarm developments are considered”.
Wingleaf had applied for permission for the 30-year operational life of the windfarm, along with a 38kV electricity substation, four battery storage containers, and a mast of up to 112 metres, in the townlands of Derreendonee, Curraglass, and Cappaboy Beg.
Much of the council’s objection to the development relates to its proximity to Gougane Barra, famed for the picturesque St Finbarr’s Oratory and surrounding forest park.
The proposed windfarm would be approximately 2.45km from Gougane, which is recognised in the Cork County Development Plan as one of the 17 “key tourist attractions of national importance”, and noted for its cycling routes and walkways.
The county council, which has a stated objective of promoting sustainable tourism, said “given the absence of compelling evidence and a proper detailed study and assessment of the cycling routes and walking trails” it was not satisfied that there was evidence the windfarm would not impact adversely on local tourism.
A petition organised by a community development committee in Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh, 5.5km from the proposed windfarm, highlighted fears of potential fire and toxic smoke hazards associated with the battery storage facility, as well as turbine height and the concentration of windfarms in the area.
Tadhg Ó Duinnín, chairperson of the committee, Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh, said the Gaeltacht village was encircled by windfarms “in a 360 degree radius around us”.
“We’re absolutely surrounded,” he said. “This community has had to take more than its fair share of them.”
Members of the public also have until the end of next week to submit observations to An Bord Pleanála on an application for substitute consent for another windfarm near Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh, which was constructed last year despite being the subject of a Supreme Court appeal.
A decision is due by December 17 on the application by Cleanrath Windfarm Ltd, another Murnane subsidiary, for nine turbines with a blade height of 150 metres.
The windfarm was the subject of a successful appeal last December by horticulturalists Klaus Balz and Hanna Heubach of Bear na Gaoithe, Inchigeela, with the Supreme Court ruling that An Bord Pleanála had failed to consider evidence regarding the impact of turbine noise on residents.
The sites at both Cleanrath and Curraglass are the focus of a newly-formed sub-committee of Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha ’n Ghaorthaidh which had its first meeting recently.
Mr Ó Duinnín said momentum was building against the concentration of windfarms in the area, with a WhatsApp group formed and a further petition likely.
He described the Curraglass planning refusal as “positive” but said: “We know it’s just one step in a longer road ahead” due to the possibility of a planning appeal.
“We want to get a campaign going in the next two weeks to save our area. We don’t want any more windfarms,” he said.