Court quashes planning authority refusal of Kildare-Meath wind farm

An Bord Pleanála told to reconsider 47-turbine project proposed by Element Power

An Bord Pleanála has been told to reconsider the Maighne wind farm project. Photograph:   Dara Mac Dónaill

An Bord Pleanála has been told to reconsider the Maighne wind farm project. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The High Court has “quashed in its entirety” a refusal by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for a 47-turbine wind farm on the Kildare-Meath border.

In his judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Robert Haughton ruled that the application for the Maighne wind farm should be remitted back to An Bord Pleanála for reconsideration.

The court said it was setting aside An Bord Pleanála’s decision on grounds including that irrelevant considerations were taken into account by the planning authority when it turned an application by Element Power Ireland Ltd to develop the project.

In 2015, the developer had sought planning permission from the board to construct the turbines: 45 in northwest Co Kildare and two in Co Meath, as well as an electricity substation, underground cables, and 31km of access tracks.

In October 2016, the board refused to grant permission for the development. The proposed turbines were to be developed in five clusters and would be 169m high.

In its decision, the board said it was turning down the proposal on grounds including that in the absence of any national wind energy strategy with a spatial dimension, the plan would be premature.

Undesirable precedent

It would, the board said, represent an undesirable precedent that could undermine any future strategy for the area.

Other reasons cited by An Bord Pleanála included that the project, which consists of widely dispersed cluster-based wind farms, would have an adverse effect on the local residences and heritage, and would have long-term significant adverse effects on the structural integrity of the local road network.

Element Power challenged the board’s refusal on grounds including that the planning authority had acted outside of its powers, and that its decision in relation to the lack of a national wind energy strategy was too vague and unclear to be adequate.

In a detailed and lengthy judgment, Mr Justice Haughton held that the board had acted outside of its powers and had taken irrelevant considerations into account when it decided to refuse permission on the basis of a lack of a national wind energy strategy.

The judge said that a wind energy policy was contained in two relevant county developments plans. However in its decision to refuse, it appeared to the court that the board failed to address by reference to those plans if it should grant permission.

The judge also found that the board had fettered its discretion when it determined that the proposed development was premature pending the implementation of a national wind energy strategy.

In all the circumstances, the judge said he was satisfied to quash the decision in its entirety and sent the matter back for reconsideration.