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High Court

Two legal challenges launched against plans for 13-turbine wind farm in Westmeath

The farm will have some of the “highest structures in the country”.

TWO SEPARATE HIGH Court challenges have been launched against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for a wind farm which will have some of the “highest structures in the country”.

The actions have been brought against the board’s decision to grant permission to Coole Windfarm Ltd develop a 13 turbines wind farm on peatlands near the village of Coole in northwest Co Westmeath, near the border with Co Longford.

The first of the actions have been brought by local residents’ groups the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group, and the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group Company Ltd by Guarantee.

The second has been brought by environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman. Both seek various orders and declarations, including an order quashing the board’s decision to give the project the go-ahead.

They claim that the decision to grant permission is not consistent with EU directives on Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessments.

Exact route

Michael O’Donnell Bl for the resident’s group told the court that one of the grounds of the challenge is that the design and the exact route of a 25km connection from the proposed wind farm to the national electricity grid have not been definitively provided.

Counsel said that as a result no assessment that complies with EU directive of Environmental Impact Assessments has been conducted in respect of the grid connection route.

Counsel said that no proper notice of the proposed route of the high voltage grid connection was published and no consent of relevant landowners has been obtained.

The challenge counsel said the turbines, which have a tip height of 175m, were “almost three times the height of Liberty Hall in Dublin”. and if built would be some of the highest structures in the country”.

In the second action, James Devlin SC for Sweetman said one of the grounds of his client’s challenge was that the board failed to properly consider continuing peat extraction operations on part of the site for the purposes of an EIA.

Another issue of concern, the court heard, is the impact the proposed development may have on the local bat population.

Permission to bring the challenges against the board was granted, on an ex parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan at the High Court today.

The Judge made both actions returnable to a date in late July.

Aodhan O Faolain