A fisherman is asking the High Court to quash a licence allowing a renewable energy firm to investigate sites off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow in connection with a proposed €1.5 billion offshore wind farm.
On Friday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys gave permission for Ivan Toole, of Ashford, Co Wicklow, and his company, Golden Venture Fishing Limited, of the same address, to bring their action against the Minister of State with responsibility for planning and local government over his granting of the foreshore licence to RWE last January.
There was no objection to the judge admitting the case into the court’s commercial planning list.
RWE proposes to undertake geotechnical and geophysical site investigations, including drilling boreholes, and to monitor wind and waves to refine its design of the Dublin Array offshore wind farm, says Mr Toole.
According to Dublin Array, the scheme is to be located about 10km off the coast in the Kish and Bray banks and comprise about 39-50 wind turbines capable of generating 700-850 megawatts of renewable energy each year.
Earlier this week, Mr Justice Humphreys granted a short-term stay on the surveying works. He will decide after a contested hearing later this month whether this order should be extended further.
Notice party RWE Renewables Ireland Limited, represented by Darren Lehane SC and David Browne BL, will be contesting the granting of any extension to the stay. A court-imposed pause of operations had “immediate financial consequences”, the court heard.
The applicant’s senior counsel, Eamon Galligan, with Ellen O’Callaghan BL, told the court the case centred on the alleged adverse impact the works would have on a European-protected site.
In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Toole said his firm had three vessels and seven fishermen operating in fishing whelk, lobster, crab and shrimp. They had increased their fishing catch by partaking in conservation measures, he said.
The planned survey area was a “highly sensitive” sand bank that was hugely important for sea birds, minke whales, common dolphins and many fish species, he claimed.
“Any physical interference with the shifting sands on this bank will have a massive knock-on effect not only on the species we target but on every bit of marine life that exists in the area,” he said.
Among his grounds of challenge is a claim the licence is invalid as the Minister allegedly failed to adequately consider the public interest in the protection of the marine environment.
The Minister also failed to comply with his legal obligations under the Habitats Directive in relation to screening the proposal for potential environmental impacts, he claimed.
The case will return to court next week.