Wicklow County Council has refused planning permission to build a wind farm near Baltinglass.
ABO Wind Limited lodged an application with the local authority seeking a ten-year grant of permission to construct five 165m wind turbines at Kilranelagh Hill. The proposal includes an electrical substation, underground cabling to connect the proposed substation to the existing substation at Stratford-on-Slaney, a 1 km heritage trail and other associated site works. The project involved land located 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,
A total of 234 submissions, including a petition with 1,149 signatures, were received by the local authority in relation to the proposed development. Of these, many expressed concerns about the project's possible impact on the area's archaeology, biodiversity, tourism and cultural heritage. Concerns were also raised about noise impact and shadow flicker of the turbines.
Observations were also submitted by the Department of Defence, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Failte Ireland, local councillors, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Heritage Council.
The Department of Defence raised concerns about the possible impact of the project on military lands at the Glen of Imaal, arguing that a wind farm would affect access to this area for the Irish Air Corps' helicopters. Failte Ireland and the Department of Tourism and Culture highlighted their views about the possible impact of a wind farm on the tourism potential of west Wicklow. Kilranelagh Hill is part of the Baltinglass Hillfort Complex.
In its submission, An Taisce said the proposal would represent a 'major and inappropriate intrusion into the archaeological heritage of the area'. The agency also raised concerns about the wind farm's potential impact on the River Slaney's water quality and the area's biodiversity.
In their report, the planner states that the proposed wind farm site is within an area 'less favoured' by the local authority for wind farm development.
The planner expressed the view that 'this particular location is especially unsuited to windfarm development because of the density and significance of archaeological monuments in these townlands' which are of national, regional and local importance. Kilranelagh Hill is part of the Baltinglass Hillfort Complex.
They also raised concerns about a potential increase in traffic volumes on local roads during the construction of the project.
The planner felt that insufficient information had been provided within the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) to carry out a full assessment on the possible environmental impacts. They listed a number of areas where further details would be required to complete an assessment including on the areas of land, soil, and noise impact on the amenity of the location.
The planner felt that ABO Wind Limited had complied with the regulations in relation to a public consultation on the proposed wind farm in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The planner recommended the local authority refuse planning permission for the wind farm, as it was felt that the site was not suitable for the development of a wind farm due to its archaeological sensitivity and the potential risk to other historic features on the site.
'Although the proposed wind turbines and related infrastructure avoid the known footprint of these sites, archaeological sites and monuments are components of broader landscapes. Moreover it appears highly likely that there are other currently unrecognised sites in the impacted area,' the planner stated.
Concern was also raised about the impact of the development on the visual relationships between the hillforts within the Baltinglass Hillfort Complex and other historic features of the surrounding landscape.
Wicklow County Council refused planning permission for the development of the wind farm at Kilranelagh Hill. The planning section listed a number of reasons for its decision to refuse planning permission including the possible impacts on the archaeology of the site. The council also noted that insufficient information had been provided about the potential for avian collisions, the effect on barn owls and red kites and proposals to minimise the risk of soil erosion at the site and along the cabling routes. The planning section also said more details were needed to consider the possible impact of the wind farm development on nearby military lands and on the tourism potential of west Wicklow.