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Engineer loses costs bid in case over Meath wind farm

John Callaghan argues development will adversely affect his autistic son

An engineer who alleges a “fundamentally unfair” planning procedure has been adopted for a proposed wind farm development in Co Meath which he fears will adversely affect the environment and health of his autistic son has failed to get a protective legal costs order.

John Callaghan, Headfort Road, Kells, who has studied renewable energy at postgraduate level, says he has “grave concerns” about the impact of the proposed windfarm on his autistic son, himself, his family and the local area, including wildlife, heritage and the cultural landscape.

His seven-year-old son is autistic and very sensitive to noise, he said. Research also indicated people with autism are afraid of visual dominance of wind turbines on the skyline, he added.

He alleges the normal planning process has been “by-passed” and matters appeared to have been “secretly” discussed with An Bord Pleanála before it decided a planning application could be made directly to the board.

The proposed €240 million 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 €3.5m for local projects over the lifetime of the development.

In the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Brian McGovern refused Mr Callaghan’s application for a protective costs order.

The judge said the various grounds on which protective costs orders are granted are all designed to ensure no necessary impediment by way of costs is put in the way of parties who seek to challenge decisions to grant development consent.

The judge said Mr Callaghan’s challenge concerns a preliminary designation of the nature of the proposed development as strategic infrastructure development. That meant neither the relevant EU Council Directive or the Aarhus Convention (which deals with costs issues) applied to this application, he said.

An Bord Pleanála is expected to give a decision in April on the planning application by North Meath Wind Farm Ltd (NMWF), whose majority shareholder is Element Power Ireland Ltd (EPIL).

Mr Callaghan’s case is against the board while EPIL, Element Power Ireland and NMWF are notice parties.

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