Councillors in Kerry have unanimously rejected a ministerial request to change their recently adopted wind policy and vastly increase the area where turbines would be “permitted in principle” in the county.
Earlier this summer councillors in Kerry opted to restrict any further wind turbines to a narrow corridor along the Cork-Kerry border in its county development plan 2022-2028. They maintained their position at a special planning meeting on Monday.
Following the intervention of the Office of the Planning Regulator, Minister of State for Local Government, Peter Burke put the council on notice of his intention to revise its plan and to permit turbines from Abbeydorney to the outskirts of Tralee, Casteliesland to Cordal, Beaufort to Killorglin and the near outskirts of Killarney.
The direction was also to replace “open to consideration” with the more permissive “permitted in principle” for turbines.
The policy adopted by councillors was “inconsistent” with the policy objectives of the National Planning Framework to promote renewable energy to meet national targets for a low carbon economy by 2050, the Minister said.
The public had two weeks to make submissions and 785 were received, the vast majority opposed to the ministerial direction, a special planning meeting in Tralee heard on Monday. With 364 turbines, more than any other county, and others in the pipeline, Kerry had “done enough for wind” for the national grid, councillors said again.
Fine Gael Cllr Aoife Thornton said the submissions were not surprising.
“How can any planning system not take into consideration what’s already on the ground … How can the Minister attempt to push us into more development when he has no [national] guidelines … It’s an outrage,” she said, in reference to the long wait for new wind guidelines which have not been updated since 2006.
Call for LNG terminal
Tralee Cllr Jim Finucane (FG) said there was a high level of activity in Europe by governments to secure energy but the Republic had “a farcical approach at ministerial level” which was about “pontification” rather than activity.
Sinn Fein Cllr Robert Beasley called for every consideration to be given to the development of the Shannon LNG [liquefied natural gas] terminal near Ballylongford, now before An Bord Pleanála.
West Kerry Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald (FF) called for the historic higher rural standing charges which rural dwellers, including people near wind turbines, paid to be reduced. Kerry which produced almost 20 per cent of national wind energy should get a benefit, he said.
The chief executive of Kerry County Council will now compile a report for the Minister and Office of the Planning Regulator on the views of members and the public. It will then be up to the Minister to decide on the advice of the Office of the Planning Regulator whether to override the county development plan as agreed by the locally elected council. However, councillors can take a judicial review on any such intervention.
Heritage Groups, environmental campaigners and wind awareness groups, said the Minister, risked destroying valuable carbon-storing peatlands and risked further dividing communities and scarring the landscape. The Green party in Co Kerry said it supported the ministerial direction as the county development plan failed to support the transition away from fossil fuels by inadequately zoning lands for the development of renewable energy infrastructure.