The site of the proposed solar farm in Gartlandstown.

Crookedwood solar farm refusal catches billionaire's eye

Westmeath County Council's recent decision to refuse planning permission for a solar farm in Crookedwood has caught the eye of one of Ireland's richest men.

On Monday, tech billionaire John Collison posted a link on social media to an Irish Times report on the council's decision to refuse planning permission for a solar farm on an 87-hectare site in Gartlandstown, Crookedwood due to concerns about the “ecological impact” of the development.

In a follow-up post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, the Stripe co-founder asked: “Has anyone ever surveyed Irish people on whether they actually want all the red tape and ecological paperwork that prevent housing, energy infrastructure, transit and other important works from being built?”

The application by Neoen Renewables Ireland Ltd, which angered many residents living in the vicinity, was refused by local planners on three grounds.

The council said that the site of the proposed development is “located within a scenic and culturally sensitive undulating and rolling landscape...which is partially located within a designated High Amenity Area”. If granted planning permission the development would “give rise to a visually obtrusive form in an open, undulating and attractive rural area”.

The council also said that the proposed development “may pose a risk of significant effects on the conservation objectives and integrity of Lough Derravaragh Special Protection Area” and that it “may have an adverse ecological impact and would be contrary to policies set out in the county development plan”.

Westmeath County Council's planning department received over 70 objections to the proposed development with most coming from people living in the locality.

According to the Irish Independent, it is understood that Mr Collison has no link to Neoen Renewables.

It is not the first time that the Limerick native has criticised Ireland's planning process. In an interview with Sunday Independent last year he spoke about the country's housing crisis.

“Why is it so hard to build new housing in Ireland? We clearly need to have a bunch more of it. Why can’t we build up?

“I think we have to do something about it. Any solution that isn’t building more housing is essentially saying to some set of people who want to live in Dublin that they don’t get to live there, which is kind of a dissatisfying answer,” he said.