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Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Planning permission refused for Wicklow wind farm due to nearby Air Corps activity

The proposed site is just under 2.5 kilometres from Coolmoney Defence Forces camp.

PLANNING PERMISSION FOR a new wind farm in Co Wicklow has been refused because of the danger it would pose to military aircraft involved in training and operational flights near the Glen of Imaal.

An Bord Pleanála has rejected an appeal by renewable energy firm, ABO Wind Ireland, against the decision of Wicklow County Council to refuse it planning permission for a wind farm consisting of five turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 165 metres across a 60-hectare site on Kilranelagh Hill in south Wicklow near Baltinglass.

Wicklow County Council had only refused the project planning permission because of concerns about its environmental and archaeological impact.

However, the board said the proposed development would be located in an area that had been identified by the Department of Defence as being of critical importance for the operational requirements of the Irish Air Corps.

It noted the location was used as a safe holding area for military aircraft before entering a live firing round area in the Glen of Imaal.

The board observed that the Department of Defence had stated that the area was used by Air Corps helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that would be flying as low as 250 feet above the ground.

It concluded that the wind farm, if allowed, would adversely affect the ability of the Air Corps to operate in the vicinity of Coolmoney Camp which is less than five kilometres from the proposed site of the windfarm development.

“It is considered that the proposed development would endanger or interfere with the safety of aircraft,” the board ruled.

It also refused planning permission for the wind farm on the basis of its location in an area of archaeological remains and monuments of national, regional and local importance, which is particularly known for its hillforts.

The board said the project would result in significant physical and visual impacts on the heritage and archaeology of the area and its landscape.

ABO Wind Ireland had argued that the project was justified on the basis that it would help Ireland to meet its climate change targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by removing almost 64,500 tonnes of CO₂ emissions per annum.

It pointed out that it had already reduced the planned number of wind turbines from nine to five and any visual effect of the wind farm would be “low impact”.

“The wind farm will not cause a serious injury to the cultural or educational value of monuments listed on the Record of Monuments and Places,” it stated.

The company also proposed that tours of the archaeological sites would be organised which would be supported by the development of a heritage trail which it had proposed as part of its planning application.

ABO Wind Ireland said it was also willing to provide annual funding towards local initiatives in terms of archaeology and cultural heritage studies and a community benefit fund which could be worth up to €130,000 per annum.

The company also maintained the windfarm would comply with all statutory aviation requirements as well as with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority guidelines on wind turbines.

It argued the development would not conflict with the nearby military firing range and there was no need for the restrictions proposed by the Department of Defence.

Plans for the wind farm had also been opposed by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media because of its impact on the archaeology of the area, while An Taisce claimed it would represent “a significant and inappropriate intrusion” on the landscape.

The Department of Defence had stated that the Air Corps believed that no wind turbines should be located within 5 kilometres of military installations.

Over 230 submissions were made to the council about the wind farm, including one with a petition containing over 1,100 signatures.

Fianna Fáil Cllr John Mullen observed that the development of a wind farm could “turn an unspoilt rural upland landscape into an industrial landscape in a manner that can only be described as environmentally devastating”, according to RTÉ.

Celtic spiritual community ‘Temple of Éiriú’, which describes itself as practicing “indigenous ways of the Earth”, called the Kilranelagh area a “sacred place” where any development would impact on their religious practices.

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Seán McCárthaigh
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