A controversial wind farm faces being dismantled after a ruling from An Bord Pleanála that it didn’t have planning permission.
A spokesperson for Waterford City and County Council (WCCC) has told the Irish Examiner that it intends to “immediately commence enforcement action” against the owner of Barnafaddock Wind Farm in the west of the county.
Last weekend, An Bord Pleanála ruled that the 11-turbine farm was operating illegally with blade diameters of 103m instead of the 90m for which it was given planning permission.
The ruling came at the end of a three-year battle by local residents who investigated the farm after complaining of noise pollution. Sean and Catherine Harris and their neighbour Ronald Krikke discovered the longer blade lengths but the local authority only took action on the matter 12 months after being informed of the discrepancy.
During the An Bord Pleanála inquiry, it emerged that the developer had received a “letter of comfort” from WCCC in 2013 allowing for the longer blade lengths without applying for planning permission. The engineers representing the developer submitted that the new blade length did not constitute a development because it had been given the go-ahead by the local authority.
However, An Bord Pleanála rejected this defence and ruled that the longer blades were not exempt from planning. The council now intends to force the developer to remove the longer blades.
“The planning authority intends to immediately commence enforcement action against the wind farm developer in order to regularise the matter,” the spokesperson said.
Whether or not it will be possible to replace them with the shorter blades is unclear.
Another issue that may arise is whether the developer will consider taking legal action against the local authority on the basis of the “letter of comfort” giving the go-ahead for the longer blade.
Barnafaddock Wind Farm is currently owned by international investment fund Blackrock Assets. A spokeswoman for Blackrock said it is not in a position at present to comment on the matter.
Local resident Sean Harris welcomed the news that the local authority intends to take immediate action.
“From what I can see, we would say that this wind farm is now an unauthorised development, therefore action needs to be taken to remedy the matter,” he said. He also said the local authority has questions to answer.
“We would be very disappointed with the planning department, they gave us the runaround for two years and they knew this all along, but we would hope at this stage they would see to do the right thing.”
- by Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner