Waterford wind farm operator ‘exploring options’ as High Court orders 9 turbines be put on standby


A wind farm operator ordered by the High Court to put nine turbines operating in west Waterford on standby “is reviewing the ruling and is further exploring its options in relation to this matter”, according to a company representative.

The order, arising from a judicial review sought by the firm, was issued by Mr Justice Garrett Simons.

Barranafaddock Sustainable Electricity Limited (BSEL) has been operating 12 turbines at Ballyduff Upper near Lismore since 2016.

Nine turbines are set on private lands and three on grounds owned by Coillte.

‘Letter of comfort’

The turbine blades measure 103 metres in length but in 2017, locals discovered that the nine on private lands only had planning permission for 90m blades.

Waterford Council however issued a ‘letter of comfort’ to the company to enable it to continue operating.

When locals applied to An Bord Pleanála to have planning permission dismissed, BSEL argued that there was no transgression as the council had been aware of discrepancy and had sanctioned the blades’ retention.

In November 2018, Bord Pleanála ruled that the development transgressed an EU directive requiring an environmental impact assessment and was therefore unauthorised.

Waterford Council then instructed the company to abide with the planning regulations but BSEL sought leave to apply for ‘substitute content’, which An Bord Pleanála refused last August.

On the Bord’s recommendation, the company re-applied to Waterford Council for retention but unexpectedly withdrew that application last month.

Meanwhile BSEL had sought a judicial review of the council’s enforcement order which has now resulted in the order to stand down the nine turbines.

No immediate order for blades’ removal

Delivering his verdict, Justice Simons said the turbines were not exempt under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

The judge declined to order the removal of the blades immediately to allow the company time to comply with the EU directive.

He also withheld executing the order until December 16 to allow the company time to appeal his decision if it so wishes.

Waterford Cllr James Tobin who has raised the enforcement issue at every local authority meeting, says the judge’s verdict is “good news for the area” but is “awaiting developments in the coming weeks with bated breath”.

BSEL says it has “no further comment to make at this time”.

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