Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has lost out in a planning row concerning the first phase of a wind farm near his Gigginstown House stud enterprise.
An Bord Pleanala has given permisssion to wind farm developers Bracklyn Windfarm Ltd to retain and increase the height to 100 metres of an existing 80-metre-high meteorological mast at Bracklin, Co Westmeath near the O’Leary-owned stud farm operation.
The mast is being used to measure wind speeds for the area as part of research Bracklyn Windfarm Ltd is carrying out ahead of its plans to lodge a planning application for a nine-turbine wind farm for the site.
The board has now granted planning permission for the mast for five years, after concluding that it would not seriously injure the amenities of the area and would not significantly impact on the ecological or cultural heritage of the area.
The appeals board has granted planning permission despite the strident opposition against the proposal by Mr O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud.
Gigginstown, along with two other parties – the Devlin Wind Information Group and Conor Milligan – appealed the Westmeath Co Council decision to grant planning permission.
In all 30 parties objected to the mast when it was before Westmeath County Council.
Objecting to the plan, planning consultant for Mr O’Leary’s Gigginstown, Ray Ryan of BMA Planning stated that Gigginstown Stud is “one of Ireland’s leading bloodstock farms, with an internationally prominent reputation, who have a direct interest in the development as 180 acres of their lands adjoin the Bracklyn estate, which is the proposed site of this development”.
Mr Ryan stated that it appears that the mast is a precursor to a planning application “for a large scale wind farm project” and is currently being promoted in the locality.
Mr Ryan stated that “it should be explained what meteorological data is required by the applicant to support the case for excessively high wind turbines in this area that could not be gathered in the timelines presented”.
Mr Ryan stated that the Council has granted the request for a five-year permission without any justification as to the needs of this timescale and that it should be rejected.
He also argued that the proposal to increase the height of the mast by 20 per cent is also not justified and is not supported by the visual impact assessment on the receiving environment.
‘Industrial scale wind farm’
In their appeal, the Devlin Wind Information Group told An Bord Pleanala “our group strongly objects to this application for the retention of the current met mast and size increase that precedes the proposed development of an industrial scale wind farm in this low lying flat area”.
The Group stated that the green light to allow the continued use of the met mast “could lead to a proposed large scale wind-farm being constructed in an area that is deemed unsuitable due to its low wind capacity and therefore there should be no requirement to allow a met mast test conditions for a potential wind farm”.
The group stated that the current 80-metre high mast at Bracklyn interferes with the natural beauty of the area and increasing the size adds to this interference.
The group contended: “The mast currently can be seen for miles and is unsightly at its current height of 80 metres.”
In his appeal, Conor Milligan told the appeals board “this incursion by a company seeking to erect wind-turbines on a rural community has all the hallmarks of a big business viewing a quiet rural area as a soft touch. It is unfair for a rural community to be burdened in this manner.”
Mr Milligan argued that the project should be a non-starter “and represents a looming threat to the landscape” and “will reduce our asset values – natural and financial”.
The proposed wind-farm development is being led by the Gaeltech Energy Group and the group has written to the local community to say that the proposed wind-farm will deliver “a substantial community fund” working out at €16,000 per turbine per year over the lifetime of the wind farm.
Board inspector in the met mast case, Stephanie Farrington stated that she was satisfied that the proposed temporary development “is not likely to have a significant impact on the immediate environment or on the wider environment”.
Ms Farrington also concluded that having regard to the slender profile of the structure and its setting within an existing agricultural landscape, it “does not form a prominent or dominant feature on the surrounding landscape”.
In 2019 Michael O’Leary, one of the most influential figures in the racing world, confirmed that he would be phasing out his Gigginstown operation over the next four to five years in order to spend more time with his young family.