THE battleground between the Ballyroan-based anti-wind farm group People Over Wind (POW) and Coillte has now shifted to Europe.
For the past four years there has been intense, bitter opposition of Coillte’s plans to erect 18 wind turbines on more than 1,468 acres of lands between Ballyroan and Timahoe and, most recently, a grid connection to the ESB sub-station in Portlaoise.
The issue has already come before An Bord Pleanála, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Commercial Court.
The latest effort by POW to stop the development came last Thursday, when the High Court referred the grid-connection application to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
It is understood that to date, communities along the routes opposed to the wind-farm development have raised more than €80,000 to fight their case.
POW claims that if the development proceeds, up to 50 families would be living within 1km of a wind turbine which, it claims, “the Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) recognise that homes within this distance may have major problems with turbine noise”.
POW, along with high-profile environmentalist Peter Sweetman, brought the latest case to the High Court.
The latest POW case centred on the grid connection work for the Cullenagh wind farm project which, according to the group, requires an appropriate assessment (AA).
There was major concern about the possible extinction of the highly-protected Nore Fresh Water Pearl Mussel should the project proceed.
On the other hand, Coillte maintained that it did not have to undertake such an assessment and instead that it would use various mitigation measures.
In his 20-page written judgement to send the case forward to the Court of Justice of the European Union, Mr Justice Max Barrett said: “It is difficult, if possible, to conceive of an instance where the objectives and provisions of the Habitats Directive could be more fully engaged and require more carefully to be observed than in the circumstances where the potential extinguishment of a species may be at stake.”
A spokesperson for POW said: “We are delighted with the decision, as it puts a huge dent in Coillte’s plan to destroy Cullenagh Mountain.
“For four years they have walked all over this community. They should know our resolve at this stage and understand that under no circumstance will we have an industrial wind farm imposed upon us.”
A second High Court action by POW against Laois County Council is also due to begin in the next few months.