The TOBIN Ecology team examined the potential ecological impacts (such as habitat loss, habitat damage/disturbance, disturbance to species and potential pollution of surface water) of the proposed Mothel Solar Farm development with regard to flora and fauna both within and surrounding the application site. Existing site conditions were presented, potential impacts were assessed, mitigation measures were proposed, and enhancement measures were recommended.
A separate NIS was also prepared for the proposed development to inform the Appropriate Assessment process, as required under Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive, focusing on European sites and the qualifying interests (habitats and species) for which these sites are designated. A multi-disciplinary walkover survey of the site was undertaken by a qualified experienced ecologist in February 2018. A habitat assessment was undertaken in accordance with “Best Practice Guidance for Habitat Survey and Mapping” (Smith et al., 2011). Habitats were classified according to Fossitt (2000) and/or following the EU Habitats Interpretation Manual for Annex I Habitats. Searches for evidence of protected species and/or presence of suitable habitats were also undertaken. A mammal survey was completed, with specific searches for badger activity, which entailed checks for badger field signs including pathways, hairs, latrines, snuffle holes, setts, scratch marks, and footprints. In May 2019, permission was granted by Waterford City and County Council subject to 22 no. conditions.
A subsequent third-party appeal was submitted. The Board decided, by Board Direction dated the 26th of July 2019, that an oral hearing was not warranted in relation to the subject case, having regard to the detail accompanying the application, including the Planning & Environmental Considerations Report and appendices, as well as the NIS and the submissions received from prescribed bodies and the Planning Authority. The Board subsequently upheld the decision to grant permission in September 2019. The SID application to An Bord Pleanála was also approved in September 2019. All (100%) of the work undertaken on this project was carried out by in-house TOBIN ecologists.