High Court challenges against Coole windfarm

High Court challenges against Coole windfarm

Two separate High Court challenges have been launched against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for a north Westmeath windfarm 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 to develop a 13-turbine windfarm on peatlands near the village of Coole.

The first of the actions have been brought by a local residents group the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group.

The second has been brought by environmental campaigner Mr Peter Sweetman.

Both seek various orders and declarations, including an order quashing the board’s decision to 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.

Michael O’Donnell, Bl, for the residents’ 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 windfarm 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 Mr 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 on Monday of last week.

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

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, chairperson of the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group, Jen Gallagher, said that she and fellow members have been granted leave for the judicial review to proceed.

“We are delighted. If we are granted leave for a judicial review it means we have case, which is brilliant. Now we to focus on fundraising because judicial reviews aren’t cheap, but at least we have one foot in the door.”

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