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Carrigaline Solar Farm Granted Approval

An Bord Pleanála Grant Permission For Carrigaline Solar Farm

Writes Ciaran Dineen

It has been announced that the proposal to develop a 47.30 hectare Solar Farm, north of Ballinrea Cross, Carrigaline has been granted by An Bord Pleanála following the rejection of an appeal by the Ballinrea Community Group.

The Carrigdhoun first reported on the proposal in November 2017, following the submission of a planning application to Cork County Council by Terra Solar II LTD. According to the renewable energy company, they are “at the forefront of solar energy development in Ireland, helping the country lead the way in developing renewable energy sources and increasing our energy independence.” 

The chosen site is located 2.14km northwest of Carrigaline, on farmland located on the L2464 road. In simpler terms, the proposed location is situated north of the Ballinrea crossroads (heading towards Douglas) and then to the right directly facing St John’s Cemetery. The area of the land in question is 47.30 hectares. According to Terra Solar II LTD, the land has been pinpointed due to its, “southern facing aspect, good visual screening by existing mature vegetation and the availability of a convenient grid connection via an existing electricity substation nearby.”

Concerns had been raised by Chairman of the Ballinrea Community Group, Pat Sheridan, at the time of the submission for planning. Residents were worried that the lack of access points to the site would create congestion during the development process and also that the Solar Farm would have a negative effect on the area’s traditional rural setting. Another argument was that the proximity to Cork Airport could also prove hazardous, similar to a case with Dublin Airport, where the reflection from the solar panels were deemed to be dangerous by the relevant authorities.

Inspector’s Report:

In response to the decision taken by ABP to grant permission they say that planning is approved subject to 38 conditions. One of these conditions pays particular attention to the latter concern raised by Ballinrea Community Group, RE Cork Airport. In his report Planning Inspector Hugh Morrison said, If following installation, the photo-voltaic solar panels are the subject of occurrence reports from the aviation community and are deemed to present an unacceptable risk to the safety of aviation activities (in particular with respect to the visual holding point at Carrigaline and operations on Runway 07 at Cork Airport), then appropriate mitigation measures (e.g. re-orientation of the panels, additional screening, etc.) shall be agreed and implemented to the satisfaction of the Irish Aviation Authority and the Dublin Airport Authority/Cork Airport.”

Noted in the report are the arguments raised by the Community Group. Included in their points raised for the impacts on residential amenity they said;

1: The proposed 4m high hedgerow would reduce lighting to residential properties to the south and west of the site. Such reduction could be eased if these hedgerows were to be sited further back.

2: The proposal would profoundly affect the rural character of the landscape. The majority of the site also lies within green belt, which should afford protection against extensive development.

3: Short range views of the proposal would be adversely impact by not only the 2.8m high support structures and panels but by accompanying structures such as extensive security fencing, which together would present as semi-industrial landscape.

Reasons and Considerations:

In recommending approval be granted Mr Morrison said, “having regard to the Cork County Development Plan 2014 – 2020, it is considered that, subject to conditions, the proposal would further the commitment of Objective ED 1-1 of the Development Plan to promote renewable energy and its location on a site within the Cork Metropolitan Green Belt would be consistent with the purposes of this Green Belt.” Referring to the concerns raised in the appeal the Planning Inspector went on to say, “landscape and visual impacts of the proposal would, subject to mitigation, be compatible with the visual amenities of the area. Traffic generated by the proposal would be capable of being accommodated on the road network and proposed access and parking arrangements would be satisfactory. The proposal would not jeopardise aviation safety.”

Along with the main condition in relation to Cork Airport safety, a number of other provisions were made. Included in this is the construction of a traffic management plan, which will be submitted in writing and agreed upon with Cork County Council. It also stated that Terra Solar II LTD would have to make a contribution of €30,000 to the Council in respect to the upgrade of Ballinrea Cross roads. This according to the Report is “considered reasonable that the developer should contribute towards the specific exceptional costs which are incurred by the planning authority which are not covered in the Development Contribution Scheme and which will benefit the proposed development.”

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