Green light for 377ac Wexford solar farm

Judicial review being considered by locals

Stock image
Stock image

David Looby

A decision to grant planning permission for what would be Ireland's largest solar farm - located in Clongeen and Foulksmills in Co Wexford - may go to judicial review.

Last week An Bord Pleanala overturned a decision made by Wexford County Council planners and granted planning permission for a 377 acre solar farm to be located at Raheenduff, Haresmead, Rosspile, Coolcliffe and Horetown North.

Permission was sought in mid-June 2018 by Highfield Solar Ltd for the 152.8 hectare (377 acre) solar farm. The ten year planning permission includes permission for solar photovoltaic panels on ground mounted steel frames, an IPP electrical control building and compound an inverter/transformer stations, battery storage units, storage containers and spare buildings, underground power and communication cables and ducts; boundary security fencing; upgraded internal access tracks and associated site works.

Permission was also sought for the proposed electrical substation and associated 110kV and MV infrastructure required to connect ground-mounted solar PV generation to the electricity transmission and all associated ancillary site development works.

This application was approved with conditions attached by An Bord Pleanala inspectors. Meetings were held last year in Clongeen by `Community First Action Group', where concerns were raised about the effects the solar farm could have on the area including that the value of homes within the vicinity of the development could be reduced by 50 to 70 per cent. Planning permission was refused for the solar farm in June 2018 and Highfield Solar Ltd appealed the decision on September 3. The site of the proposed wind farm was visited by An Bord Pleanala inspector Mary Crowley in March and planning was granted last week.

The Wexford People reports that Loughlin Gannon Snr is one of several landowners in the area who have agreed to lease their land to Highfield Solar Ltd, who are welcoming the decision.

He said: 'We are delighted that this has come true. 85 different people complained. I was speaking to them in Highfield and they were very happy with it and they said there were no conditions worth talking about.'

Loughlin said construction could begin on the solar farm by the end of 2020.

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'It has to happen in the next two years as the landowners here have only signed a five year lease and almost three of those years are gone now. This is the biggest in Ireland. We are delighted because it was looking so bad for so long'

Bernie McGee of Clongeen's `Community First Action Group' said: 'We are all disappointed with the outcome of it. The conditions were minimal enough and the inspector had no problem with the size of the solar farm. We had concerns about the battery storage units being a fire hazard. Speaking to other community groups around the country who are in a similar situation to ourselves it wasn't unexpected but it's not as big a blow as it might have been.

'There is a lot of disappointment; at the end of the day it's an industrial power plant as it will be generating electricity.'

She said the construction of the solar farm would cause huge disruption, adding that the group have someone looking at the possibility of a judicial review. 'We have seven weeks to weigh up our options. You have to apply for leave to go for judicial review but we have huge support within the area so we are not worried about the cost because where there is a will there is a way.'

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