23rd January 2017
A judicial review into a planned wind farm near Trump International Golf Links Resort and Hotel at Doonbeg has been brought forward following Mr Justice McGovern admitting the case to the Commercial Courts. The review was granted by the High Court last year.
The application for the proposed 12-turbine wind farm had initially been rejected by Clare County Council on grounds relating to the protected freshwater pearl mussel. However, this decision was overruled and permission for the development was granted in October 2016.
The challenge to the decision granting planning permission for the development is being brought by the NGO, Friends of the Irish Environment. FIE previously objected to the 2011 plans for a 44-turbine wind farm. This objection was successful and An Bord Pleanala refused permission at an oral hearing in 2015. FIE’s most recent challenge supports Clare County Council’s original decision that there is no certainty the freshwater pearl mussel would not be adversely impacted by the development.
The company proposing the development, Clare Wind Farms Ltd, have submitted an affidavit in support of the application to the Commercial Courts, stating the case is a “matter of urgency” and of “critical importance to its commercial viability”. The company have also claimed planning permission must be in place by the 1 January 2018 for the development to receive government support through the REFIT II scheme.
In an affidavit opposing the wind farm Dr. Evelyn Moorkens, an expert on the fresh water pearl mussel speaking for the NPWS, notes the assessment of the impact on the mussel was insufficient. She also states that permitting the use of chemical compounds, known as “siltbusters”, to prevent excavated soil from polluting the water poses an additional threat to the protected species.
Dr. Moorkens highlighted that not using siltbusters or other chemical compounds was a “mainstay of accepted mitigation practice”. She went on to outline that these products are “‘usually metals that are highly toxic to the freshwater pearl mussel and can travel many hundreds of kilometres in large European rivers, yet the Board have certainty that they will not travel down a few kilometres to the site of mussels.
The visual impact of the proposed wind farm on the view from the Trump’s golf course and hotel was stated as an additional reason by Clare County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission.
An offer made by Donald Trump and his organisation to assist the FIE in their efforts to prevent the wind farm development was refused in 2014. Trump has previously criticised a wind farm development near his Scottish golf course as being “environmentally irresponsible” and a “blight on the landscape”.