A 48-turbine wind farm proposed for Co Mayo has been refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.
Coillte's project, on lands at Cluddaun, was to be complemented by an adjoining 112-turbine, €600-million scheme at Bellacorick, put forward by an ESB/Bord na Móna consortium, Oweninny Power Ltd.
Together the two schemes represented a potential €825-million investment that, if approved, would have been the country’s largest onshore wind farm, potentially generating 521 megawatts of power.
A decision on the larger Oweninny proposal is not expected until at least November.
Refusing the Cluddaun application yesterday, An Bord Pleanála specifically said it was “not satisfied that the developments as proposed would not have the potential to impact negatively on the surface and groundwater hydrology”.
These concerns relate to the potential for peat slippage and changes in the flows of natural streams and rivers.
Other reasons cited included the scale of the development, the “exceptionally sensitive” nature of the location in close proximity to designated and protected habitats and a landscape “characterised by blanket bog, lakes, ponds and watercourses”. The isolation of the site from public roads, which would have necessitated access through third-party land, was also of concern.
Responding to the decision, the Moy Valley Protection Group, which had opposed the scheme, said it "condemns the wasting of public money by Coillte and the Government in attempting to build a wind farm in an unsuitable area of outstanding beauty against the wishes of the local community and without any consideration of their wellbeing".
Planning permission was sought under strategic infrastructure legislation that allows the application to bypass the local authority and proceed directly to An Bord Pleanála.
While this is the final stage in the planning process, it is now open to Coillte, a natural resources management company, to apply for judicial review. In a statement, it said it “notes the decision” and will not comment further at this stage.
Attention will now focus on the remaining part of the overall scheme. An Bord Pleanála has written to the ESB requesting further information on its Oweninny Power proposal, specifically a revised environmental impact statement. A decision will not be reached until at least November, although this time-frame could be extended.
An oral hearing on both projects was conducted in Ballina, Co Mayo, in April 2014. Eighteen submissions were filed in relation to the Oweninny proposal, and 17 for Cluddaun.
Issues of concern raised by various groups at the time included health and safety, proximity to homes, noise, “flicker” from turbines, the effect on property values, construction, noise and travel. Concerns about landslides, impact on the land and tourism also featured.