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High Court allows challenge to Balla Poultry Farm


DECISION An Bord Pleanála overturned Mayo County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the development.

Ger Flanagan

PLANS to build a 12,000 capacity free-range poultry house at Brownhall, Balla has been halted after the High Court granted leave to a man to challenge the planning permission.
Michael O’Connor of Brownhall Demense, Balla brought the case against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission for the poultry farm situated three kilometres south west of Balla.
Mr O’Connor’s home is situated around 80 metres from the 1,856-metre-squared site, which received a total 12 submissions from local residents to Mayo County Council at the original stage of planning.
The application was made by Noel and Ann Mulhern, principals of the wholesale egg producers West-A-Wake Eggs, on land which is currently farmed by the mother and brother of Ms Mulhern, according to Mr O’Connor’s affidavit, which was seen by The Mayo News. As reported in The Mayo News last May, Mayo County Council refused the planning application on the grounds that the site ‘would seriously injure the amenities, or depreciate the value’ of local properties and that the site may contravene the EU Habitat Directive due to its closeness to the River Moy.
However, it was appealed by the Mulherns to An Bord Pleanála, who then granted the permission in a decision that was not unanimous, despite the recommendations for refusal by their planning inspector, Ms Sarah Lynch, who carried out an inspection at the site on August 12.
Mr O’Connor, a paintless dent technician, objected on grounds such as noise and odour nuisance, groundwater pollution to his personal well, as well as the risk of disease to his lands from the poultry farming.
In the affidavit, he also says that there is a risk to the River Moy Special Area of Conversation (SAC) as the land drains into Curryaphreaghaun Lough which feeds the Manulla River which is a major tributary of the Moy.
He says the site is on the side of a slope which is about four metres lower at the bottom end and that when the first respondent [ABP] appointed an inspector, it was indicated that there was ‘relatively poor drainage’ on the site.

He also said that Inland Fisheries Ireland wrote a submission to Mayo County Council highlighting the risk to the River Moy if the application was to go ahead.
Mr O’Connor also stated that the proposed development is about 1.8km from the Ballinafad (Special Area of Conservation), which part of the conservation objective there is to maintain the protected species of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat.
The inspector [Sarah Lynch] appointed by ABP to access the proposal and report to the Board, O’Connor says, ticked ‘Yes’ to the following question: ‘Is the integrity of a European site likely to be affected?’
Among the inspector’s reasons for recommending refusal were several failings and omissions in a noise report, dealing with noise from hens and operations such as manure removal and ventilation fans, which was provided as part of the application. The inspector said by virtue of the proximity to existing residential properties, the significant potential for noise disturbance would have an unacceptable impact.
Mr O’Connor said he was ‘at a loss’ to understand how the board made their decision that is ‘so different from the report of the inspector’. He also said that the board made no request for the Mulherns to ‘close the significant gaps’ that were identified in the inspector’s report in relation to noise impacts and the proposed mitigation measures for the River Moy SAC.

‘Sparse reasoning’
In his affidavit Mr O’Connor said he was surprised that ‘such sparse reasoning’ was provided by the board in relation to overturning the inspector’s 30-page report on the potential impacts to a European site.
Last Monday week, Mr Justice Charles Meenan gave permission to Mr O’Connor’s legal team to apply for judicial review, following a one-side only represented application. The Mulherns are notice parties.
Judge Meenan also granted a stay on the decision which the board could apply to have lifted on 72 hours notice to Mr O’Connor. The case is due back to the High Court in January.