The re-design and construction of Keelderry Wind Farm comprising 16 wind turbines, meteorological mast, and substation, has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanala on the grounds that it could endanger bird species such as the hen harrier and merlin, that it would adversely affect the stability of nearby peatland, and would seriously injure the visual amenities of the area.
Permission was sought by Keelderry Windfarm Limited, however an appeal was brought by Bird Watch Ireland and after consideration the planning board refused permission on November 9 last.
According to the inspector’s report the site is located approximately 10km to the east of Gort in south County Galway, it occupies an elevated, open, and exposed position on the southwestern side of the Slieve Aughty Mountains, and surrounds a small lake at Dirney’s Lough. The surrounding area is characterised by a mix of forestry, agricultural land, and upland blanket bog. The site is also bounded on all sides by Coillte owned coniferous forestry plantations and agricultural land with the existing Derrybrien windfarm located approximately 3km to the east.
The proposed development itself consists of: a total of 16 x 3MW wind turbines which would be up to 85m high, up to 100m rotor diameter, and total height would not exceed 135m; a permanent meteorological mast which would be circa 85m high; a substation and associated equipment; site works comprising excavation of borrow pits, new internal site tracks, upgrading of existing internal site tracks, expansion of drainage system, turbine hardstands, wastewater holding tank, underground cables, and ancillary site works.
The reasons and conclusions given for the refusing of permission include that the proposed development would be located within the Slieve Aughty Mountains SPA which has been designated because of the presence of hen harrier and merlin, both of which are listed as Annex 1 species for protection in the in the EU Birds Directive. The inspector warned that the development would give rise to a substantial loss of foraging habitat used by the hen harrier population in this area.
There were also concerns that the development would be located in an exposed upland area of blanket bog within the Slieve Aughty Mountains Special Protection Area and in close proximity to several other Natura 2000 sites. The board was not satisfied that the development would not prejudice the stability of the peatland on the site and adversely affect the quality and conservation status of other special areas of conservations.
The third reason given was that the development, by virtue of its scale and height, would have significant visual impact on the landscape and would exacerbate the visual obtrusiveness of such a development in the area. The inspector felt that the development would therefore “seriously injure the visual amenities of the area”.