High Court dismisses Offaly wind farm challenge

Court cites lack of evidence for claimed adverse effects

A challenge to a €120 million wind farm in Co Offaly by local residents – who claimed it would affect their mental health, property prices and the habitat of the Whooper swan – has been dismissed by the High Court.

Stephen Carroll, a tiling contractor, from Bunsallagh, Croghan, and Joanne Addie, a homemaker from Ballyburly, Rhode, had challenged An Bord Pleanála’s approval for the 29- turbine Yellow River wind farm north of Rhode.

Galway-based environmentalist Peter Sweetman was also an applicant in the case.

The three sought judicial review of the June 2014 permission granted to Green Wind Energy (Wexford) Ltd. Some 50 local residents were also opposed to the wind farm, the court was told.

Dismissing the challenge, Mr Justice Raymond Fullam found the three had failed to discharge the onus of proof in relation to any of the grounds they had pursued.

He said there was no evidence the An Bord Pleanála inspector erred in his assessment of the objectors’ claims that health, in particular mental health, would be affected by noise and shadowing caused by the flickering of the blades on the 156m-high turbines.

The inspector had proposed post-construction noise-mitigation measures to monitor noise and noted it would be possible to reduce the power output of the turbines if it exceeded the 43-decibel threshold required by the planning permission, he said.

Whooper swan

There was also ample evidence, on which An Bord Pleanála and its inspector came to its decision, that shadow flicker was not a significant risk to health, he said.

There was no evidence before the board inspector that Irish or local property prices were affected by wind farms, he added.

The Whooper swan has not been classified as qualifying for special protection either in the site where the turbines will be or at two designated Special Protection Areas within 15km of the site, the judge said.

That meant the objectors’ argument that certain screening of the wind farm was required, in accordance with the EU habitats directive, did not arise, he said.

Green Wind Energy, the developers, had nevertheless carried out a screening assessment and said it would ensure the project would have no significant adverse impact on the swans, he added.

The judge said the board inspector was entitled to take into consideration such mitigation measures in reaching his decision to approve the project.