Tuesday, March 14, 2023

A planning application montage view on approach to Clonea Power, which features the southern boundary of the proposed solar farm (with natural mitigation added) on the road between the village and Rathgormack 

After a previous planning application by BNRG Mothel Limited was declared invalid by Waterford City & County Council, the company has submitted a further application to the  Council, which is now at pre-validation stage.   

With the co-operation of five local landowners, whose letters of consent are included in the application, the company has re-stated its intent to develop a solar farm over 141 hectares (348 acres).  

This would involve the construction of photovoltaic panels on ground mounted steel frames with associated cabling and ducting, along with the following: 28 single-storey inverter stations; perimeter fencing; permeable gravel access track; 49 onsite pole mounted CCTV cameras; four new site accesses; four security gates, and other temporary construction services and works.  

The new application was received by the City & County Council on Friday last, March 10.  

A 28-page Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment Report, prepared by Tobin Consulting Engineers, states that the proposal “will have no impact on any sites of architectural significance or of built heritage interest”.  

Regarding mitigation measures the development would necessitate, the report notes that “underground cables should be avoided as far as possible but where this is unavoidable, archaeological monitoring may be necessary”.  

All extensive groundworks connected to the development “will be followed by focused archaeological testing” under a Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage licence.  

“Furthermore, the proposed solar farm site is extensive high quality actively farmed agricultural land and in this regard the site proposed for solar development will remain in agricultural usage until such time as work on the solar project commences.”  

The report also notes: “The anticipated lifetime of the solar farm is 40 years as determined by the grant of planning. At the end of the proposed development’s lifetime, the system will be completely dismantled (including underground electrical interconnection and distribution cables) and the site restored to its preconstruction state. Therefore, any visual impact of the development is reversible.”   

At a two and a half hour public meeting held in Clonea on April 6 last year, attended by 200 people from the locality, no-one other than the BNRG officials present spoke in favour of the proposal.  

Said local resident Tom Coughlan: If you’ve (BNRG) sold your last three solar farms that you’ve developed, that means you’re out the door here. You develop it, you’re out the door. You sell it, you make your money and you move on. You can talk about environment this and environment that – you’re putting lipstick on a pig. That’s what you’re doing, You’re coming down here trying to convince me that this is good for the village? This is not good for the village.” 

As the meeting drew to a close, BNRG’s David Maguire commented: “It’s really clear, the mood of the room. There’s no question about that and we’ve got the message.” 

Public submissions will be accepted by the Council’s Planning Department up to Thursday, April 13, with a decision currently scheduled for Thursday, May 4.  

Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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