Developer concerned about delays to the €60m Coole Windfarm

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Windfarm challenges in the Midlands fast-tracked by commercial court

There have been two High Court challenges against An Bord Pleanala's decision to grant planning permission for a wind farm in Coole, Co Westmeath

Two High Court challenges against An Bord Pleanala's decision to grant planning permission for a wind farm which will have some of the highest structures in the country, have been admitted to the fast track commercial court list.

The actions have been brought against the board's decision to grant permission to Coole Windfarm Ltd develop a 13 turbine wind farm with a blade tip heights of 175 metres on peatlands near the village of Coole in northwest Co Westmeath, near the border with Co Longford.

The first action is brought by local residents groups the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group, and the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group Company Ltd. The second has been brought by environmental campaigner Mr Peter Sweetman.

In proceedings against An Bord Pleanala, and the State, both seek various orders and declarations, including an order quashing the board's decision to give the project the go ahead.

The applicants claim that the decision to grant permission, made last March, is not consistent with EU directives on Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessments.

Permission to have the board's decision judicially reviewed was granted by the High Court last May, Westmeath Co Council, and the developer of the proposed windfarm, Coole Windfarm Ltd, are notice parties to the actions.

On Monday Mr Justice Robert Haughton admitted both cases to the fast track commercial court list. The application for admission, which was not opposed, was made by the developer. It says it is concerned about delays to the €60m Coole Windfarm development.

Having the case admitted to the commercial court list is the most effective of having the proceedings dealt as expeditiously as possible.

It claims the timely delivery of the windfarm will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse emissions and will reduce any potential fines Ireland may have to pay if the state fails to its national EU emission reduction commitments for the year 2020.

The company claims it has already spent €2.3m on the proposed facility, which will generate 75 jobs during the construction phase. Coole windfarm also claims that the project, if constructed, will deliver savings of almost 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in its 25-year life.

The court was also told the that State intends to apply to be let out of the residents' group's proceedings, on the grounds that no cause of in that case action is disclosed against it.

The cases, which were adjourned to February, are expected to take between six to eight days to hear.