Court challenge to proposed Meath wind farm fails
Engineer had claimed ‘fundamentally unfair’ planning procedure
John Callaghan had claimed a”fundamentally unfair” planning procedure was adopted for the development that meant there would be no public involvement in the process of carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Ms Justice Caroline Costello today found Mr Callaghan had failed to establish the necessary substantial grounds for quashing the disputed decision of An Bord Pleanála of September 2014 that the development was a strategic infrastructural development, with the result the planning application could go directly before the board.
She could not accept Mr Callaghan’s central submission that the designation of the proposed application as strategic infrastructural development in any way predetermines the outcome, or any part of the outcome, of either the environmental impact assessment or the application for planning permission, the judge said.
The decision on whether or not to grant planning permission must be made on the basis it accords with proper planning and sustainable development in the area, she said.
Mr Callaghan had also failed to make out a case that the relevant EU directive was not properly transposed into Irish law, she held
Michael Cush SC, for Mr Callaghan, said his side wanted a short time to consider whether to seek a certificate for leave to appeal and also whether they would seek a stay in the matter. In those circumstances, the judge adjourned the matter to next week.
In his judicial review application, Mr Callaghan said he feared the proposed development on lands near his home will adversely impact on the environment and health and development of his young autistic son.
He argued the provision of the planning acts under which An Bord Pleanála decided the proposed development has “strategic infrastructural status”, with the effect a planning application can be made directly to the board with no public involvement in the process of carrying out an EIA, was inconsistent with EC Directives aimed at the public having a say in the vital issue of assessing environmental impact.
Section 37A of the Planning and Development Act 2000 gives “no guidance at all” as to what is considered to be of strategic and economic importance, he also argued.
The proposed €240m Emlagh development is for 46 wind turbines, each with a height of up to 169 metres and a power output of 2.5 to 3.5MW, on three clusters of lands at Farragara, Castletownmoor and Ísealchríocha, near Kells.
The developer claims, if permission is secured, the wind farm will generate substantial electricity for up to 30 years, jobs and some €3.5 million for local projects over its lifetime.
The board is expected to give a decision shortly on the planning application by North Meath Wind Farm Ltd (NMWF), whose majority shareholder is Element Power Ireland Ltd (EPIL). Mr Callaghan’s case was brought against the board, while EPIL, Element Power Ireland and NMWF were notice parties.
Kevin O’Donovan, director of EPIL and NMWF, said the proposed development must have permission in place by late 2015 to be completed in time to meet Ireland’s 2020 renewable energy targets.
EPIL has developed some 45MW output of wind farms to date and hopes to complete construction of another 51MW in 2015, he said.