A number of reasons for the planning refusal related to plans to develop a new road between Tullamore and Kilbeggan, which would replace, in part, the existing road (pictured above)

Council turns down largescale Durrow solar farm proposal

A bid by a Dublin-based energy company to construct a large scale solar farm on lands at Durrow, on the outskirts of Tullamore, has been refused by Offaly County Council, amid concerns that it could prevent the development of a proposed link road between Tullamore and Kilbeggan.

The council said the proposed development of the solar farm, on a 206 acre site in the towslands of Gormagh and Culleen, is “partially located” within the Preferred Option Corridor of the proposed Tullamore to Kilbeggan (Link Road), and could therefore “prevent the development” of this road.

The Offaly County Development Plan has, as one of its stated objectives, a plan for the provision of a Western Bypass/Relief Road to the west of Tullamore Town, linking the R420 to the northwest of the town with the N52 to the southwest and has pledged to seek to “pursue and/or facilitate the relevant project.”

The council listed five reasons for refusing the application by Elgin Energy Services Ltd., for a ten-year grant of planning approval for a solar farm and battery storage facility on a 83.5 hectares (206 acre) site in Durrow, approximately 3.5km north of Tullamore.

Four of the five reasons for refusal are related to the proposed construction of the link road between Tullamore and Kilbeggan, with the council deeming the application to be “premature” pending the determination by the planning authority and the road authority of “a detailed road layout for the locality.” They noted that the proposed development is “partially located within the proposed Western Bypass” and could prevent the development of the link road. On that basis they deemed it to be “contrary to proper planning and sustainable development.”

In the notice of refusal to Elgin Energy Services Ltd, the Offaly local authority said it is an objective of the council to “protect the study area, route corridor options and, thereafter, the Preferred Route Corridor” for the national road schemes being progressed in their Development Plan “and to prohibit development that could prejudice their future delivery.”

The council also raised concerns about the impact of the proposed development on archaeological heritage, given the lack of “test trenching on site”. Citing their obligation to protect archaeological sites and monuments, and archaeological objects, through the planning process, the council said that “given the lack of information available it is considered that the proposal could impact on archaeological material” and would “materially contravene” the Offaly County Development Plan.

Elgin Energy Services Ltd., submitted a planning application to Offaly County Council on August 3 last year for a solar farm project which would include a single-storey on-site 38kV substation within a compound; two single storage containers; 45 battery storage containers within a compound; 40 inverter stations; ducting and underground cabling; perimeter fencing; mounted CCTV cameras and internal access tracks.

The solar panels in the proposed development “will be a maximum of 3.2m tall and have clearance from the ground of at least 0.8m” according to the planning application, which also stated that the solar farm “will be unmanned” during the operational phase and will be “monitored remotely during its lifetime” with maintenance visits to the site consisting of “typically one person in a van each month.”

Letters of consent from three landowners at the development site were included with the planning application, one with an address in Culleen, Durrow and the remaining two with addresses listed as Gormagh, Durrow.