Vistakon’s wind turbine plans refused due to concerns over bats

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

ONE of the biggest employers in the Mid-West is examining new ways of building a multi-million euro wind turbine in Limerick, after being refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanala.

ONE of the biggest employers in the Mid-West is examining new ways of building a multi-million euro wind turbine in Limerick, after being refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanala.

Vistakon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has been refused permission to erect a wind turbine –taller than the Spire in Dublin – in the National Technological Park in Plassey.

The Limerick Leader understands the company is now in talks with the local authority regarding revised plans on a more modest scale to facilitate it going ahead.

One of the factors considered in the inspector’s report was that the turbine could have had an impact on the bat population of the area, including the injury or death of bats in a “worst-case scenario”.

The inspector noted that eight of the 10 recorded bat species in the country can be found within a 10km radius of the area.

A full bat survey was prepared, which stated that the risk to some specimens could be minor if a special buffer zone was incorporated in the plans.

The plans, which were proposed by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Ireland (Vistakon), were also turned down by Limerick County Council in February of last year, but the company appealed that ruling to An Bord Pleanala.

Vistakon employs around 650 people locally and is the biggest manufacturer of contact lenses in the world. It supplies millions of euro worth of contact lenses, including the Acuvue range of daily disposable lenses, across the world each day. Last month the company announced a €100m investment in Limerick, and the creation of a further 100 jobs. It proposed to locate the wind turbine adjacent to their building and the Plassey Park Road.

The company said the 3-mega-watt wind turbine, with a hub height of 100m and rotor blades measuring 50.5m, would reduce its energy costs, by meeting 15% of the plant’s demand for electricity and wind energy in a “clean and sustainable manner”.

It could lead to an annual avoidance of 4,120 tonnes of CO2, and “benefit the environment, economy and society”, the report notes.

Shannon Development also indicated strong support for the project, subject to conditions.

The national planning authority ruled that the overall height and scale of the turbine would “constitute an excessively visually obtrusive feature in the landscape”.

The planners also stated that it would “seriously injure the visual amenities of the area” and be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development.

While they said that the site is suitable in principle for the development, they had “a real concern” regarding its scale “on this restricted site given its proximity to existing businesses and houses in this well populated location”. It was noted that houses are located within 700m of the proposed site. No objections or submissions were made in relation to the plans to either 
authority.