Jagoes Mills Action Group (JMAG) is a local community group formed when a solar developer sought planning for a poorly proposed, 32-acre, 5 MW solar power-generating plant in Farrangalway, Kinsale in February 2016. Despite the lodgement of 33 objections with Cork County Council and a further 14 appeals with An Bord Pleanála, and rejecting the recommendation of the An Bord Pleanála inspector assigned to the case, the development was granted planning permission in April 2017. JMAG is fully supportive of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the Government’s subsequent 2020 renewable energy targets. However, the group strongly contends that the Government needs to ensure that solar-specific policy, legislation and planning guidelines be enacted to ensure best practice and a strategic, plan-led approach to this new industry in Ireland.
The industrial-scale solar panel power plant proposed by Green Mills Energy is not in keeping with the defined character of the area. Farrangalway is a close-knit rural residential community. Twenty eight homes are located within 200 metres of the proposed site and, in many cases, generations of families have raised their children here. The proposed site is agricultural land within a rolling patchwork farmland landscape.
The visual impact of the development will permanently desecrate the landscape, not only for those living in the many homes adjacent to and overlooking the site, but for the wider community who use local roads to exercise and who utilize key amenities in the area including the Kinsale Golf Club and the Kinsale Point to Point Race Course. The installation of the solar panels, industrial buildings, high security fencing, CCTV, and lights, also will destroy the attractive countryside view from the key R607 artery for the many passing drivers and, more importantly, tourists, who are the lifeblood of the Kinsale economy.
Increased Road Flooding
There is a strong history of flood risk at the proposed site. Jagoe’s Mills is recognised and recorded as an area with a flood quality code of 3, resulting in significant flood damage to private properties, business premises and homes and traffic hazard and disruption on the R607, a main artery in and out of Kinsale. Increased run-off from the solar panels will undoubtedly exacerbate these problems
Glint and Glare
Glare from 20,000 solar panels will greatly impact residents.
Health and Safety
Little consideration has been given to the health and safety of community residents and the potential risks posed by this 5MW power generating plant.
Threat to Heritage
Located within 500 metres of the historically significant battle of Kinsale in 1601, this proposed development threatens an important heritage site and tourism attraction in the area.
Endangerment to Wildlife
Among the bird species recorded at the proposed site, ten are red- and amber- endangered birds, including the Meadow Pipit.
No confidence in Greenmills Energy Ltd.
Greenmills Energy Ltd., which was only set up as a company on 3rd February of 2016, including its Directors Patrick O’Regan, Diarmuid O’Regan, Jim O’Regan and John Kiely, has no experience of developing or operating a solar energy power plant. The poor quality of Green Mills Energy’s original submission to Cork County Council which was lacking in necessary expert research, including an Environmental Impact Analysis, and the continuing lack of information in other areas such as the future decommissioning of the site, safety assessment, quantitative risk analysis and mitigation measures and emergency response, further demonstrates its lack of solar energy experience and raises serious questions regarding its overall competence in developing and operating a power plant of this size and scale. Green Mills Energy did not engage local residents in any public consultation or dialogue prior to lodging the application.
Planning before Policy
Granting planning permission for this development and other solar panel energy plants, given the current policy vacuum relating to solar energy, is creating a situation whereby opportunistic developers are scrambling to try to take advantage of potential government subsidies with no consideration being given to the natural environment and rural communities.