AN Bord Pleanála has overturned Cork County Council's refusal of planning for a wind farm in the Muskerry Gaeltacht area, and has decided by a majority of three to two of its members to grant permission for 11 turbines, 126 metres high.
The Board has also rejected a recommendation from its inspector to omit four of the wind turbines, and has granted planning permission to Cleanrath Wind Farm for all 11 turbines, which will be almost twice the height of the County Hall.
There were 107 submissions from local residents, farmers and businesses in area, of which 73 were in support of the proposed development and 34 against, including a letter of objection with 68 signatures.
Those in support mentioned carbon neutral energy generation and promotion of the social and economic viability of the area.
Those against raised issues regarding visual impact on a scenic location, noise associated with the proposed development, and the cumulative effect of 11 turbines on residential property in the area.
In June 2011 the newly founded Cleanrath Wind Farm company submitted the planning application, to be constructed on a 3km/sq site in the townlands of Cleanrath North, Cleanrath South and Doire an Aonaigh. The project involves Enerco Energy, based in Lissarda, and six landowners, including Coillte.
In June 2012 the county council refused permission for the wind farm due to its stated position that 'the proposed development would be contrary to the proper and sustainable planning of the area'.
The council's grounds of refusal included unsuitability of the area's existing road network regarding transport for the development, and a material contravention of the County Development Plan due to destruction of habitat of high ecological value.
The company appealed the Council decision to An Bord Pleanála in July 2012. The appeal claimed the majority of construction traffic would be capable of accessing the site using the existing road network, and that five additional 'junction improvements and alterations' would only be required to temporarily facilitate access for "abnormal loads" containing the turbine components.
It was also stated that only a tiny percentage of habitats on the site might be impacted upon, and ... did not merit refusal on the basis of potential impact.
Now, An Bord Pleanála has decided to grant permission for the proposed development having regard to national policy relating to the development of sustainable energy sources.
In deciding not to accept the inspector's recommendation to omit certain turbines by condition, the Board considered that the separation distances proposed between turbines and dwellings were in accordance with national guidelines regarding the protection of residential and visual amenities.
It had been indicated in the inspector's report that 16 houses were identified within 2km of the site's centre, and that the nearest house to the turbines would be over 600 meters away.
The Board also stated it was not considered necessary to omit any turbine in relation to ecological concerns, and has concluded that a material contravention of the Cork County Development Plan does not arise.
"There's a split in the community over it, and that's bad news in a rural area," said one local resident in the wake of the decision.