Major Offaly windfarm gets go ahead
An Bord Pleanála has given the go ahead for a major wind farm comprising 21 turbines of up to 185 metres in height in West Offaly
The Derrinlough windfarm, to be developed by Bord Na Mona Powergen Ltd, is to be located on part of the Clongawny and Drinagh bogs close to the existing peat briquette factory near Cloghan.
The approval by An Bord Pleanála earlier this week is subject to 29 conditions and was made under legislation governing strategic infrastructure developments which allows proposed projects be submitted directly to the planning board without first seeking local authority approval.
The proposed windfarm covers 34.2 hectares of land across a number of townlands. The site is located approximately 2km south of of Cloghan, 3.4km east of Banagher and 2.5km north of Fivealley.
The proposal is for 21 wind turbines with an overall blade tip height of 185m (comprising maximum hub height of 110 metres and maximum rotor radius of 75 metres). The turbines are to be arranged in two clusters across the two bog sites.
Also approved were two permanent anemometry masts up to a height of 120m, new and upgraded internal access roads, passing bays, amenity pathways and an amenity car park as well as two permanent underpasses in the townland of Derrinlough, one located beneath the N62 and one beneath an existing Bord Na Mona rail line.
The project also includes an 110 kV electrical substation which will be constructed in the townland of Cortullagh or Grove and the upgrade of existing access and temporary improvements and modifications to public roads to facilitate delivery of turbines and the development of access for delivery of construction materials at locations on the N62 and R357.
The planning permission is for ten years and provides for a 30-year operational life from the date of commissioning of the entire windfarm.
The ruling from An Bord Pleanála came despite a number of turbines being located outside the area designated for wind farm development in Offaly County Council's Wind Energy Strategy. The council, in its own submission, sought that the turbines located outside the designated area should be omitted from the development as they represented a material contravention of the county development plan.
However, the planning board's inspector, in her report, highlighted that the board, under planning legislation on strategic infrastructure projects, is not constrained by material contravention considerations.
In its ruling, the board said that while the proposed development is located on a site, only part of which lies within an area identified as open for consideration for Wind Energy Development, it believed the proposed development would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
It cited information provided in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, which shows that the entire area of the development displays similar characteristics and that no reasonable distinction can be made between the areas that lie within, or, outside the areas identified as ‘open for consideration’, and the positive contribution the proposed development would make to Ireland's national strategy policy on renewable energy and its move to a low carbon future.
There were 17 submissions made by local people as part of the planning process, raising issues such as concerns in relation to the potential cumulative noise level and visual impact of the proposal when taken in conjunction with the existing Meenwaun and proposed Cloghan wind farms in the same area, the height of proposed turbines relative to those existing and permitted in the area and the impacts on residential amenity and property values.