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Ireland: Wind energy farm plan bites the dust

It’s the case of hands across the mountainside in celebration this week as neighbouring communities in Waterford and Tipperary who flank the Knockmealdown mountain range are hailing what they perceive to be a “famous victory’’.

Plans by a North Cork based company, D. P. Energy Ltd., to develop a wind energy farm on the picturesque mountainside have been given the thumbs down by An Bord Pleanála, and the communities who fought a vigorous campaign against the project now believe it has finally been consigned to the pages of history.

Four times previously D. P. Energy Ltd. had applied to Waterford County Council for planning permission to construct the windfarm on the mountain range in the townlands of Knocknalougha and Knockaveelish close to the west Waterford village of Ballysaggart. On each occasion the application ended up in the lap of An Bord Pleanala for a final adjudication, and to the consternation of the company it lost out every time.

This latest modified application, which was given the planning all clear by Waterford County Council, was viewed by many as a last throw of the dice by the company. Now the Bord Pleanala refusal may well have sounded the death knell for its plans.

D. P. Energy Ltd. had originally intended to develop a windfarm comprising thirteen turbines that would have had towers of almost fifty metres in height with rotor diameters of more than sixty metres. Additionally they planned to provide ancillary equipment including a substation and monitoring mast.

Opposition to the development immediately came from both the Waterford and Tipperary sides of the mountain range. The Clonmel based Peaks Mountaineering Club joined with the Knockmealdown Protection Committee to initiate a vigorous and very united campaign against it.

However the Buttevant based company seemed to have finally made the breakthrough when Waterford County Council gave a modified proposal, including a reduction in the number of turbines from thirteen to seven, the planning “all clear’’.

But this latest decision of the national planning appeals board to overrule the local authority is a major setback for the company and could well represent a fatal blow to their plans for the project.

In giving its decision, Bord Pleanala has stated that the development would seriously injure the scenic and visual amenities of the area, would seriously detract from its distinct qualities, and would set an undesirable precedent for further developments in the upland areas of the mountain range.

William O’Donoghue, chairman of the Knockmealdown Protection Committee, and Gerry Treacy of the Peaks Mountaineering Club, have expressed delight at this latest Bord Pleanala decision.

In a joint statement they said the decision is not a surprise to them because on no less than four previous occasions Bord Pleanala had made it clear that it believes no such development should take place in an area of such outstanding scenic beauty.

Mr. O’Donoghue also said it is mystifying that the developer should have persisted in attempting to get planning permission, and equally that the local authority should initially have given the go ahead. “To save time and energy — aren’t we all supposed to be saving the latter — we hope that would be developers will finally take note and forget the Knockmealdowns’’, Mr. O’Donoghue said.

He added that while everyone involved with the Peaks Mountaineering Club and the Knockmealdown Protection Committee fully support the national effort to develop renewable energy systems, wind turbine installations at locations that destroy their heritage cannot be tolerated.

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