Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has become involved in a planning row over plans for a wind farm near land he owns near Delvin, Co Westmeath.
The well-known businessman, through his horse racing organisation, Gigginstown House Stud, is one of several parties to appeal against the recent decision of Westmeath County Council to grant planning permission to a wind energy firm for the retention of meteorological mast as well as an increase in its permitted height from 80 to 100 metres.
Objectors including Gigginstown House Stud, whose racing manager is Mr O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, have expressed concern that the mast at Bracklin, Co Westmeath is a prelude to the development of a wind-farm on the site by Bracklyn Wind Farm.
The company is linked to Gaeltech Energy Services, a Cavan-based wind energy firm, which has plans for a wind farm of nine turbines with an electricity output of up to six megawatts per turbine.
Gaeltech, which claims the windfarm will be capable of providing the energy needs for 46,900 households each year, said the project was at an early design and consultation stage.
However, the proposed height of the turbines at 180 metres would make them some of tallest wind farm structures in the country.
Consultants acting for Gigginstown said it was one of Ireland’s leading bloodstock farms “with an internationally prominent reputation”.
They said Mr O’Leary’s horse racing business had a direct interest in the issue as it owned 180 acres of land which adjoined the Bracklyn Estate, although the Gigginstown stud itself is located around 4km away.
The consultants expressed concern at the lack of information about plans for the site and the justification for wanting to keep the mast in place for a further five years which it suggested might be because the promoters had failed to establish that climatic conditions were suitable for a wind energy project.
“It should be explained what meteorological data is required by the applicant to support the case for excessively high wind turbines in this area,” they observed.
Gigginstown acknowledged that national and local policies supported renewable energy resources but said the policy was “not absolute and is not to be abused.” It claimed generous planning exemptions for promoters of wind energy were routinely being extended far beyond the limit allowed under regulations which permitted the use of meteorological masts of limited size for a limited duration.
Gigginstown also criticised the lack of any ecological or environmental reports about the impact of the existing mast on the site.
A total of 30 objections were lodged against the development with Westmeath County Council with many locals describing the mast as “an eyesore”.
The Delvin Wind Information Group, which also lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála, claimed the area is unsuitable for wind farms because of its low wind capacity.
The group believes Gaeltech will need exceptionally tall wind turbines to get the wind speeds it requires given the low-lying nature of land in the area.
Local Sinn Féin TDs Sorca Clarke and Johnny Guirke, claim the mast poses a threat to protected wildlife species including the corncrake and buzzard.
A ruling in the case is expected in March 2021.
Gigginstown House Stud has been one of the most successful stables in Irish horse racing in the past decade including the two-time Aintree Grand National winner, Tiger Roll and Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, War of Attrition and Don Cossack.
However, Mr O’Leary announced last year that the stud’s national hunt operations would be wound down over a five-year period.
Gigginstown has also recently enjoyed success at breeding with one of its fillies, Kingman, being sold for 1.45 million guineas at Tattersall sales in October.