An Bord Pleanála hosted an oral hearing in the Longford Arms Hotel, Wednesday June 12, on the proposed development of a wind farm at Derryadd, Co Longford.
Bord na Móna Powergen Ltd are seeking permission to develop a 24-turbine wind farm and all associated infrastructure within its lands on the Derryaroge, Derryadd, Derryshannoge and Lough Bannow cutover bogs. They are seeking a 10-year planning permission and 30-year operational life from the date of commissioning of the entire wind farm.
The hearing kicked off with representatives from Bord na Móna (BNM) launching their defence of the planning application. The first speaker on their behalf was Sean Creedon, the planning & environmental manager for Powergen development, who outlined the development plans in great detail.
He was then followed by Richard Barker of Macro Works Ltd, who issued an official response to submissions made on potential landscape and visual disturbances referenced in submissions.
Covering submissions made on turbine height, visibility and the industrialisation of the landscape, Mr Barker used photomontage evidence of each area mentioned in said submissions, to prove his points. He stated that the development would not be out of proportion with the local landscape.
Barker stated, “It is accepted that these (turbines) will be marginally taller than the highest turbines currently permitted in Ireland.
“The proposed Derryadd turbines are not ‘totally out of proportion’ with any existing landscape.” he added.
“The proposed turbines represent a modern and sustainable substitution of that prevailing land use.”
Declan Morrissey, Hydrogeologist and project manager with TOBIN consulting engineers, was next to respond to all hydrology and hydrogeology concerns raised. He refuted claims that the Royal Canal will suffer from discharge entering its system.
"There will be no direct discharges into natural water courses," he said.
Mr Morrissey also covered issues affiliated to turloughs, road construction, silt control and drainage methods.
“It should be noted that the construction works for the proposed development (and associated silt ponds) will not exceed a TSS limit of 25mg/l." he said when talking about silt control measures.
Site specific construction environment management plans were also covered, as well as the potential flood risk of any works.
He stated, “It is predicted that the development will not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere.”
The fourth representative on behalf of BNM was senior ecologist with TOBIN, Joanne Allen-Hamilton. She issued a response to an Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) submission on surface water quality, as well as a response to both Irish Peatland Conservation and the Dept of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht submissions on Bog remnants.
"No raised bog remnants, including Lough Bawn, will be directly impacted by the proposed development." she said.
“Bord na Móna will undertake further protective measures including field drain blocking, within and immediately adjacent to this area.”
Joanne also confirmed that no “target species” were found during examinations for whorl snail populations. She also dismissed submissions made on the effects of large scale wind turbines on insects and informed the hearing that species of bee are found "to be significantly more diverse and abundant around a wind turbine.”
To conclude, Joanne covered submissions on climate change concerns and carbon sinks and gave projected carbon sequestration figures.
“In summary, the windfarm will save over 320 times more CO2 than the rewetting of the wind farm footprint.” she claimed.
Dr Tom Gittings, an Independent ecological consultant, was next to respond to submissions made and he focused his efforts on submissions associated with biodiversity and centered on the potential impacts the development may have on curlew, merlin and whooper swan populations.
“The wind farm site and surrounding areas does not support a significant wintering population of Curlew, so any potential displacement impacts to non-breeding/wintering Curlew will not be significant.” he stressed.
He also dismissed any collision risks for species such as Barn Owls, Whooper swans and black headed gulls.
Dermot Blunnie, AWN consulting Ltd, was the sixth speaker on behalf of BNM and he issued an official response to submissions made on noise. The final response made on behalf of Bord na Móna came courtesy of Siobhán Tinnelly, Operations director with TOBIN consulting, who issued a general response to each issue raised in the written submissions.
The hearing continued later this afternoon, Wednesday June 12, with opposition parties and locals granted an opportunity to voice their concerns on the proposed development. In the afternoon proceedings, Longford county council voiced their general support for the Derryadd wind farm, subject to certain conditions being met.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service voiced their concerns over whooper swan populations and drainage works associated with the development, while Padraig Fogarty, Irish Wildlife Trust, talked up the incompatibility of the wind farm with the proposed mid-Shannon wilderness park.
There were also further presentations from Niall Dennigan, on behalf of the No to Derryadd Wind Farm group, and Liam Madden, on behalf of concerned locals.
Videos were then shown on behalf of the opposition, depicting the height of the proposed development as well as the recent sightings of two curlew birds. The hearing continues tomorrow, June 13, from 9:30am.