Court overturns salmon farm’s permission to extract fresh water from lake

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Ireland’s most “famous serial environmental litigant” succeeds in legal challenge.

In 2018, it was reported that the Irish farm Bradán Beo Teoranta had been granted permission to extract fresh water from a nearby lake. Salmon need to pass through a shower of freshwater to prevent amoebic gill disease.

An Bord Pleanála (a body that decides on appeals from planning decisions made by local authorities in Ireland) granted permission to the salmon farm to extract water from nearby Loch an Mhuillin.

At the time, Peter Sweetman, who is described by Friends of the Irish Environment as “Ireland’s most famous serial environmental litigant”, challenged An Bord Pleanála’s permission, which included a temporary pipe link to the lake.

Sweetman is the son of former Fine Gael minister for finance Gerard Sweetman and has objected to many projects including wind farm proposals and even multi-billion euro planning projects. In 2018, Sweetman derailed plans for the 38,000-tonne rock barrier at the President Donald Trump-owned Trump Doonbeg golf resort in west Clare.

The Irish Times now reports that the High Court has overturned the permission. In a recently published judgment, Ms Justice Niamh Hyland ruled Mr Sweetman was entitled to succeed on one ground of his challenge, that the permission did not comply with the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

The judge added the “directive requires that the status of water bodies in EU member states be evaluated with the objective of achieving good status of all EU surface waters”.

“While rejecting all other grounds, including of alleged breach of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and habitats directives, the judge said Mr Sweetman was “rightly deeply critical” of the “extraordinary” eight-year delay by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in deciding the company’s application for aquaculture licences intended to last 10 years,” wrote the publication.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland added that Bradán Beo Teoranta can continue its salmon farming activities but without the proposed water extraction works.