Judge overturns permission for Co Cork solar farm

Board did not carry out proper screening exercise for environmental impact, court finds

The High Court has overturned a decision by An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for an electricity generating solar farm.

The High Court has overturned a decision by An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for an electricity generating solar farm.

 

The High Court has overturned a decision by An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for an electricity generating solar farm.

In judicial review proceedings, environmental activist Peter Sweetman sought orders against the Board and the State aimed at quashing the November 2018 decision giving the go-ahead for the solar farm on a 67.8 hectare site at Fiddane, Ballyhea, Co Cork.

The board granted permission after Mr Sweetman, represented by James Devlin SC, with Margaret Heavey BL instructed by solicitor Aoife O’Connell, appealed an earlier decision, by Cork County Council, to grant permission.

The developer of the proposed solar farm, IGP Solar 8 Ltd was a notice party to the proceedings.

In his judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Denis McDonald found the board did not carry out a proper screening exercise for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in relation to the proposed development.

This failure rendered its decision to grant permission invalid, he held.

He rejected arguments by Mr Sweetman the proposed solar farm required to be assessed under the European Environmental Impact Assessment Directive were dismissed.

He ruled the claims against the State must fail on the grounds they were not properly pleaded as is required.

Mr Sweetman had argued, if the board made its decision to grant planning permission for the solar farm under Irish law, it must follow the State had failed to adequately transpose EU directives on Habitats and EIAs.

No provision of Irish law was identified by the plaintiff which it is alleged fails to properly transpose the provisions of those directives, the judge said.

He will rule on a later date if the matter can be remitted back to the Board for a fresh consideration.