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Ceann Comhairle raises concern over solar farm near Naas

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has raised concerns over a planned €100m solar farm that is to span 318 acres of farmland 4km from Naas.

The Dunstown solar farm plan by the Portlaoise based EEL Mullacash Solar Ltd is to be constructed across 30 fields of agricultural land and is currently used for pastoral farming.

The solar farm is to produce 105MW of renewable power and a planning statement lodged with the application states that the proposed development “will generate a range of economic benefits both in terms of its construction and operation, generating jobs for installation, maintenance and its eventual remediation”.

However, Kildare County Council has received over 50 objections from mainly locals concerned over the impact of the solar farm and two others solar farms for the area that have already secured planning permission.

In his submission, Deputy Ó Fearghaíl has told the council that “the concerns of local residents and stud farm owners are not without significant justification”.

“To concentrate three large solar farms in one small geographical location and on top class agricultural land seems to me to be an initiative that is hard, if not impossible, to justify.”

The Kildare South Fianna Fáil TD has pointed out that the County Development Plan “has always given special protection to the bloodstock industry – given its enormous importance to the economy, both locally and nationally, and its significance in employment generation and highlighting the stature of the county ie Kildare – The Thoroughbred County”.

Deputy Ó Fearghaíl has told the council that in looking at this application “I would ask you to consider any likely impact on the Equine Sector and that appropriate expert and scientific studies be undertaken in order to arrive at a sustainable conclusion”.

The Punchestown Area Community Group claim that the solar farm will comprise of a further 200,000 solar panels on semi natural grassland and will be located only 300m from the Gowran Grange Swordlestown solar farm.

The Community Group state that the total number of solar panels from the three solar farms totals 800,000.

The submission states that “the members of our group are very concerned at the over-concentration of planned solar farms in our area”.

The group state the three combined solar farms “would be a large sprawling solar farm on the doorstep of Punchestown. This could seriously detract from the jewel in the crown of our area which is Punchestown race course”.

The group said that its members feel that no matter what the applicants state that “what is clear is that our beautiful local landscape will be irrevocably altered and transformed from a rural landscape into an industrialised solar energy landscape”.

The group said that Kildare has some of the best agricultural land in the country and “it is therefore of grave concern that the subject planning application will result in the further loss of quality agricultural lands”.

The Two Mile House Biodiversity and Heritage Group have also objected while Kevin and Sinéad Morrissey of Ballymore Eustace Rd, Naas have told the council that permission for the Dunestown Solar Farm would bring the totality of the three projects to 1,203 acres and an output of 431MW “and would in effect almost completely wipe out the full townland of Swordlestown”.

They said that at a very minimum, a cumulative impact assessment of all three projects should be carried out.

A planning statement lodged with the EEL Mullacash Solar Ltd application states that the overall design of the proposed development has carefully considered its setting within the confines of County Kildare “to ensure the potential effects upon landscape and visual receptors are limited”.

The report states that “the siting of the solar farm within the limits of the existing field system will help to integrate the proposed development within the surrounding rural landscape”.

A decision is due on the application at the end of the month.

Reporting by Gordon Deegan

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