An Bord Pleanála rejects Loughrea solar farm appeal

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An Bord Pleanála has refused planing permission for a solar farm near Loughrea, rejecting an appeal by Engie Developments Ireland against an earlier decision.

Engie Developments Ltd had intended to create a solar farm with 19,608 solar panels at Cahernamona, Loughrea with an expected lifespan of 30 years.

Galway county council had refused permission for the 27,602m² development next to the N65 last year because of the danger glare from it would pose to motorists.

This decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála who sided with the council and upheld its decision to refuse planning permission.

Engie Developments said in its appeal that neither the county council nor TII referred to its assessment of the risk from glint and glare thrown off by the solar panels.

According to the developer there would only be a risk of glare to motorists traveling northbound at certain times of the day due to the positioning of the solar panels.

However Transport Infrastructure Ireland responded to the appeal, saying that “Any occurrence of glint and glare (reflection) that is a distraction to road users is unacceptable to TII”.

An Appropriate Assessment Screening was submitted by Engie which said it was not likely the solar farm would have any impact on Special Areas of Conservation.

However the developer did not produce a full Natura Impact Statement which would have examined this in greater detail.

In refusing permission An Bord Pleanála noted that the proposed solar farm is near an elevated section of the N65 “at a location where particular vigilance is required, and glint and glare from the proposed development would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard and distraction of drivers”.

The board also said that without a Natura Impact Statement it cannot be satisfied that the development wouldn’t have an adverse impact on protected sites in the area.

This is one of several solar farms that Engie was working on in the area.

A similar scale project at Ardnamona East, Loughrea was also rejected by the county council, but on appeal An Bord Pleanála sided with the developer and granted approval.

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