Wind farm plan is re-submitted

Previous application for controversial project at Kilranelagh Hill had been deemed incomplete by local authority planners

ABO Wind Ireland are seeking planning permission to develop a wind farm consisting of five wind turbines at Kilranelagh Hill north of Baltinglass. Stock image

Eimear DoddWicklow People

An application to develop a wind farm at Kilranelagh Hill has been lodged with Wicklow County Council.

ABO Wind Ireland Ltd have applied for permission to construct five 165m wind turbines at Kilranelagh Hill, outside Baltinglass. Their application was re-submitted and validated by Wicklow County Council's planning section. An application submitted last month was deemed incomplete by the local authority.

The application covers a site in the townlands of Kilranelagh, Colvinstown Upper, Ballinaroan Upper, Bolleycarrigeen, Cloghnagaune, Downings, Spinans West, Kill, Eadenstown South, Eadestown Middle, Ballintruer More, Castleruddery Lower and Castleruddery Upper. Permission for a period of ten years is being sought by the developer.

The project includes the construction of five wind turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 165m, a transformer at each turbine, an electrical substation, underground cabling along the public roads to facilitate the connection of the wind farm substation to the existing Stratford substation and other associated site works.

Permission is also to be sought for a 1km heritage trail, car parking, replacement of the existing grass verge with a footway at several bridge crossings and other associated site works.

The proposal has been the focus of sustained local opposition since the wind farm developer announced proposals last year to develop a wind farm in the area. Many of those opposed to the development have focused on the archaeological features on the site, with some arguing these make the area unsuitable as a possible location for a wind farm.

Councillors unanimously agreed at the January meeting of the Baltinglass Municipal District to make a joint submission about the proposed development. During the discussion, some raised concerns about how a public consultation with the local community could be carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response to queries from this paper, a spokeperson for ABO Wind Ireland Ltd said consultations with the local community had started in January 2020 when the project team went door to door at neighours of the site who were given a newsletter, They were invited to attend a forest walk in February 2020, in which 20 local residents took part.

The spokeperson said emails were also sent to key community groups and clubs, primarily in the Kiltegan and Baltinglass areas, which had been identified through a 'stakeholder mapping exercise'. Members of the Baltinglass Municipal District were also contacted and invited to discuss the proposals or to attend the forest walk.

'We did not receive a response from the councillors on either of these occasions. The councillors were further made aware of ABO Wind Ireland intentions to submit the planning application in January 2021,' the spokespoerson added.

They added that plans to hold drop-in consultation events in Baltinglass and Kiltegan last April could not go ahead due to Covid-19. Instead, a newsletter was delivered to around 1,400 household within 5km of the project in May and emailed to a mailing list including councillors, local residents and community groups.

'People were encouraged to get in contact via letter, phone, email or to have a virtual meeting. Another project update newsletter was published in late September 2020 which gave an update on the progress of the planning application,' the spokesperson said.

They added the project website was updated last month to stated that the planning application would be submitted and notification was emailed to those on the mailing list.

The ABO Wind Ireland spokeperson pointed out that the planning application had now been submitted and validated by the local authority and was available to view using Wicklow County Council's planning portal. They added that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage had deemed the planning system to be an essential service.

Wicklow County Council is expected to make a decision on the application by March 23.