Plan to develop solar farm on 277 acres in Kildare garners 15 planning appeals

Stud farm owners oppose proposed project near Naas, citing ‘negative impact on their livelihood’

Fifteen appeals have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála by parties seeking to block plans for a solar farm on 112 hectares (277 acres) in Co Kildare.

The development by Strategic Power Projects Limited for a site 2.5km south of Naas in the rural townlands of Swordlestown North and South is being opposed by the owners of stud farms in the county.

The applicant originally sought planning permission for a solar farm across 129 hectares (319 acres) comprising 230,688 PV panels and this has been reduced to an area of 112 hectares involving the erection of 197,010 PV panels after revised plans were lodged in response to a request by Kildare County Council for further information.

READ MORE

In granting permission, the council found that the development of a solar farm in the rural area is acceptable in principle.

The council granted permission after concluding that the proposal would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity.

In a submission by representative body for thoroughbred breeders, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, its CEO Shane O’Dwyer told the council that the operation of the solar farm “is not compatible with the business of stud farming and our members are very concerned that this will have a negative impact on their livelihood”.

Mr O’Dwyer contended that “the industrial scale development would entirely dominate the landscape resulting with the loss of prime agricultural land and employment connected to it”.

Mr O’Dwyer argued that the bloodstock industry’s valued image “throughout the world would be damaged by the prominence of an industrial solar facility in the heart of the thoroughbred county”.

The CEO pointed out that a 2019 Deloitte Report found that the horse-breeding industry provides 4,700 jobs in Co Kildare and €420 million in annual expenditure.

Mr O’Dwyer said that the area adjoining the proposed development site contains five stud farms totalling 216 hectares (533 acres) and 20 stud farms within 5km.

One of the 15 appellants in the case is Friends of Swordlestown Little Stud. Another appeal was lodged by the Punchestown Area Community Group.

The group told the council that the proposed development in the heart of the equine industry in Co Kildare would pose a significant land use conflict and would adversely impact future investment in the industry.

A decision is due to be made by An Bord Pleanála in December.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times