Wind-farm plans approved by Waterford council rejected by planning board


Permission for a £15 million wind farm near the Vee Gap scenic drive in the Knockmeal down Mountains has been refused by An Bord Pleanala.

The project had been approved by Waterford County Council, which said the 12tower development at Knockalougha, near Ballysaggart, would not greatly impinge on the sensitivity of the area. Environmental groups, however, said towers of up to 60m in height would turn one of Ireland's most scenic areas into an eyesore.

The development is the third such proposal approved by the council and rejected by An Bord Pleanala in the past 10 months.

Mr Edward Sheehan, who planned to develop the windmill project at Knockalougha, reacted angrily to the board's decision. He had "bent over back wards" to meet everyone's concerns and had offered to reduce the height of the turbines to 50m and to scale down the development, he said.

The planning board said that notwithstanding the reduced height of the structures, the proposed development "would seriously injure the scenic and natural amenities and distinctive character of this remote area".

It would also "detract from the amenities of an important walking route and would set an undesirable precedent for further similar development at elevated locations in the Knockmealdown mountain range."

The site was in an area designated as a "scenic landscape" in the Waterford county development plan and was adjacent to an area of "primary amenity value" in Tipperary south.

Mr Willie O'Donoghue, chairman of the Knockmealdown Protection Committee, said the board's reasons were "exactly the concerns we have been raising from day one. What's the point in calling something a scenic area, then allowing a development like this to go into it?"

The committee and the Peaks Mountaineering Club were the appellants to An Bord Pleanala.

However, Mr Sheehan claimed planning decisions on wind farms were inconsistent. Turbines had been built on the tops of hills in scenic areas including west Cork, while his proposal was for a wind farm below the skyline in an "extremely remote" area. His reduced-height option would have resulted in his farm being visible from the south-west only.

Even the development as approved by Waterford County Council would not have been visible from the Vee drive, a scenic route through the Knockmealdowns linking Tipperary and Waterford, he said.

Last year An Bord Pleanala overturned planning permission by Waterford County Council for two wind-monitoring masts in the Knockmealdowns. The 40m masts would have been used to establish the feasibility of operating wind farms at two locations near Cappoquin, one of them overlooking the Cistercian abbey at Mount Melleray.

In separate decisions, the board said the developments would injure the visual amenities of the area. The Knockmeal down Protection Committee accused Waterford County Council of ignoring those decisions in approving Mr Sheehan's application. The council said the latest proposal was dealt with on its own merits. Tipperary South County Council had also expressed reservations about Mr Sheehan's application.

It asked that four of the turbines be moved so that they would not be visible from Tipperary. The request was rejected as "unreasonable" by Waterford County Council.