*Niall Williams. Photograph: John Kelly
THE IMPACT on the protected bird, the Hen Harrier, has helped put pay to plans for a contentious 10 turbine wind farm for West Clare.
This follows An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission to the 557 ft tall wind farm eight km from the west Clare coastline.
As part of the proposal by MCRE Windfarm Ltd for the project at Cahermurphy near the west Clare village of Kilmihil, it proposed to remove 63 hectares of breeding and foraging area suitable for the Hen Harrier
The appeals board has ruled that when taken in conjunction with other wind farms in the area, the wind-farm would result in unacceptable cumulative adverse ornithological impacts and for the Hen Harrier in particular.
The board made this a reason for refusal after its inspector in the case, Kevin Moore concluded that the proposed development would have significant adverse impacts on the ornithological importance of the area by way of collision, mortality, disturbance and displacement of protected bird species.
Blanket bog is the dominant soil type at the site and the appeals board also refused planning permission as it was not satisfied that it had sufficient evidence that the proposed repositories of peat to be generated during the excavation for the planned wind-farm would be effective in the safe storage of significant volumes of peat.
The decision by the board upholds a planning refusal issued by Clare County Council almost two years ago on April 9th 2021 and ends a planning battle with locals after plans were first lodged in September 2020.
The Cahermurphy Wind Farm No II Opposition Group led the local opposition and one of those to object was west Clare based Booker Prize long-listed and international best selling author, Niall Williams.
Dublin native, Niall Williams was long listed for the prestigious Booker Prize in 2014 for his ‘History of the Rain’ novel.
Mr Williams moved to Kiltumper with his wife, Christine Breen in the 1980s and in their ‘strong’ objection lodged with the Council against the plan, they stated: “People live in this landscape and we believe this development and others like it, will ultimately lead to the depopulation of the region in favour of the wind industry, a situation which the planners will not only have overseen, but stewarded into being”.
A two turbine wind-farm for a site close to the couple’s home received the green light in 2010 from An Bord Pleanala.
In their objection against the current plan, they stated that they live within 500 metres of the constructed wind-farm and “what we can attest to is that in the year in which we have been living next to the erection and the commission of two turbines, the noise pollution is almost constant”.
They stated, “When the wind is coming towards us, we cannot open our bedroom window at night without hearing the constant thump or stand at the kitchen window without seeing the blades spinning.
They stated, “So called wind-farms destroy habitats, not only for birds”.
They contended that exploitation of the landscape feels targeted and sacrificed to the erection of wind turbines.
In their direct plea to planners, they stated that “we would ask you to strongly consider what is being allowed to happen in mid-west Clare and to assess it if it is in the best needs of the people who are living there”.
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) lodged with the application stated that the proposed project will create 72 jobs and that over the lifetime of the wind-farm, a Community Benefit fund of €5.6m will be made available.
The EIS stated that the proposed wind energy development is critical to helping Ireland address a number of challenges as well as addressing the country’s over-dependence on imported fossil fuels.
The EIS stated the site of the proposed development is located within an area designated in the Clare County Development Plan, 2017-2023 as ‘Strategic’ for wind energy development.