Appeal lodged against granting of Swordlestown solar plant planning permission | Bloodstock News
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By Aisling Crowe
12:16PM, AUG 27 2022
The council had granted Strategic Power Projects Limited permission for the 35-year development which could see up to 230,000 solar panels installed on a 320-acre site at Gowran Grange, on land which neighbours both Swordlestown and Swordlestown Little studs.
Despite receiving more than 100 individual objections from residents, environmental campaigners, local historians and high-profile figures from the racing and breeding industry, including Punchestown racecourse, Mick Kinane, Maurice Burns, Ger Morrin and Paddy Burns, as well as renowned sporthorse breeder and former CEO of Kerrygold Dr Noel Cawley, Kildare County Council decided in July to give the project the go-ahead on a ten-year permission to build, rather than the more usual five-year term.
The campaign against the development of the solar plant has been stepped up with the appeal to An Bord Pleanala, the results of which will not be known until December 13.
Members of the community who have submitted appeals to the board include the Punchestown Area Community Group, prominent stud owners, breeders and renowned equine vets Des Leadon and Mariann Klay and the Cullen family of Middlelane Farm.
They are worried about the environmental impact of the plant, which if built would be the largest of its kind in Ireland, both on the local environment and on their breeding stock.
Dr Leadon stressed the importance of developing renewable sources of energy, particularly at a time of rising costs and increased pressure on resources, but that potential negative impacts must be given due consideration.
“It is not an either or situation,” he said. “Renewable energy is a vital resource and we support that, but it should not be developed at the expense of an important national industry that creates rural employment and brings in foreign investments to this country.”
One of the chief issues facing all parties in this situation is the lack of a national policy governing renewable energy expansion and suitable locations for developing solar plants. Unlike in the UK, where solar plants are not permitted on prime agricultural land, Ireland has no official strategy, leaving councils, residents and farmers without clear guidance.
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Campaigners fear that the solar plant at Swordlestown is part of a wider threat to swathes of agricultural land in Kildare and Meath, where much of Ireland’s world-leading bloodstock industry is located.
Earlier this month Kildare County Council also granted planning permission to EirGrid, the state-owned company charged with operating and developing Ireland’s national grid, for a controversial extension to the electricity substation at Dunnstown which is close to the proposed location of the solar plant.
That is part of a planned upgrade to the grid in Kildare and Meath, for which EirGrid has identified a 53km long route from Woodlands Substation near Batterstown, County Meath to Dunnstown Substation near Carnalway in Kildare, passing close to Kilcock, Rathcoffey, Prosperous, Sallins, Naas and Two Mile House.
In the Dunnstown area alone are located the Aga Khan’s Giltown and Sallymount Studs, Juddmonte’s New Abbey Stud and several Darley properties including Ragusa Stud, while the wider location is also home to the likes of Rathasker Stud, Newtown Stud and Newlands House Stud.
EirGrid proposes deploying underground cables to connect the upgraded electricity supply using 400kV High Voltage Alternating Current. The project is currently in stage five of its development, with an application for planning permission expected to be made before the end of 2023.
The fear is that the upgraded connection along with the controversial Battery Energy Storage System which Strategic Power had planned to build at Dunnstown, but were refused permission to do so by Kildare County Council citing fire safety and health concerns, will open the floodgates to a raft of planning appeals for solar and other industrial-scale energy developments on prime agricultural and horse-breeding land.
“This is a monumental occurrence and it sets an enormous and important precedent,” said Dr Leadon. “There is no protection for the bloodstock or agriculture industries and if it can happen in the heart of Kildare’s thoroughbred county, then it can happen anywhere.”
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FIRST PUBLISHED 12:16PM, AUG 27 2022
Read More: Appeal lodged against granting of Swordlestown solar plant planning permission | Bloodstock News