The Government has waded into a row about future wind developments in Kerry and has directed local politicians to open up more of the county to wind energy projects.
Minister of State for Local Government Peter Burke has issued a draft direction to Kerry County Council to revise certain maps detailing where such developments could potentially be made.
In April, council members opted to restrict any further wind development in all but a narrow section of the county near Kilgarvan. The State’s planning watchdog argued that revised maps in the council’s plan meant that the potential for wind energy development would be highly constrained.
In July, Kerry councillors decided to disregard the recommendations made by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) and proceed with the plan.
The OPR then wrote to Mr Peter Burke on July 29th saying that the councillors’ plan does not indicate how it will “contribute to realising overall national targets on renewable energy and climate change mitigation, and in particular wind energy production and potential wind energy resource”.
In his draft direction to Kerry County Council, issued on Monday evening, Mr Burke said he “is of the opinion that the development plan has failed to implement a recommendation made to the planning authority by his office and that the development plan fails to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
Reacting to the direction, Councillor Jackie Healy Rae said it would have a “massive negative impact on local communities” and said the Minister was trying to be the “goody two shoes of Europe”.
He said he was calling on “Kerry people power” to oppose the Government’s move.
“It’s a case of we will build as many wind turbines as possible in the county even if the wind never blows in that area just so we can appear to be the goody two shoes of Europe. The new areas to be included stretches far beyond what was ever previously zoned across all parts of the county and will have a massive negative impact on local communities,” he said.
“The Minister is not only seeking for the original draft map to be put back in place, but, instead of them being ‘open to consideration’, he is seeking to change that to being ‘permitted in principle’.
“Not only that, but he is seeking that the ‘areas of further assessment’ that were examined by Kerry County Council as being unsuitable for wind energy development, the Minister is now seeking a number of these to be included as ‘permitted in principle’; this is reckless, irresponsible, not evidence-based whatsoever and he is selling Kerry out to the wind energy development companies,” said Mr Healy Rae.
“The Minister is saying in black and white; Kerry people can decide their own future as long as it is only the way he wants it. I am asking Kerry people to support the sections that we have put forward and we now need Kerry people in big numbers to submit their own submissions on the plan calling out the Minister’s bully boy tactics.”
Mr Healy Rae also said a judicial review on behalf of Kerry County Council could not be ruled out as a possibility.
The Government’s direction has been made under specific provisions of the Planning and Development Act, where the OPR can give a recommendation to the Minister to issue a direction if they believe a local authority’s county development plan is not in keeping with relevant legislation.
The draft direction will now start a statutory process which includes a public consultation. The council will have the opportunity to lay out why they included elements the OPR disagrees with and the rationale. A report will then go back to the OPR and who will decide whether the Minister should issue a final direction or not.