Sunday 17 December 2017

Planning permission for Offaly peat-powered plant quashed

The High Court
The High Court

Mary Carolan

An Taisce has secured a court order overturning a planning permission for the continued operation of a Bord na Mona peat-powered power plant in Co Offaly, employing 180 people.

A stay on the ruling continues to April next and a further stay may be sought.

The quashing of the permission was made by Mr Justice Michael White on foot of his ruling earlier this month about the adequacy of the environmental impact assessment carried out by An Bord Pleanala concerning the plant at Clonbollogue operated by Edenderry Power Ltd. The ruling could affect the lifespan of other peat-powered Bord na Mona stations.

In a judgment on October 10th last, Judge White ruled the Board assessment of the environmental impact of the continued operation of plant was too narrow.

He adjourned the making of further orders to today when he granted an application by James Devlin SC, for An Taisce, to quash the permission. The judge granted a stay to April 30th next on that order and also listed the matter for mention on February 9th 2016 to allow for the prospect of a possible application to extend the stay beyond April.

He also awarded 65 per cent of the costs of the proceedings to An Taisce against the Board.

An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, had in its proceedings challenged the board's permission for the continued use and operation of a electricity generating power plant at Clonbullogue, Co Offaly.

It argued the environmental effects of extracting the peat as a fuel source for the plant was not properly assessed in accordance with an EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.

In his October 10th judgment, Mr Justice White said there are possible indirect effects on the environment of the use of peat from designated bogs to power the station but the Board "completely" "excluded consideration of indirect effects when considering the application to extend the life of this plant.

That failure involved misinterpretation of the relevant legislation in relation to the EIA Directive, he said. The court must intervene if the interpretation of the relevant article is misinterpreted by the appropriate authority, he also held.

The Board is obliged to ensure the effectiveness of the Directive by subjecting the environmental effects to an EIA before granting planning permission for the power plant, he found.

Edenderry Power Ltd, Bord na Mona Energy Ltd, Bord Na Mona Plc, the Minister for the Environment and the State were all notice parties to the action. 

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