Group calls for guidelines as solar power plant gets go ahead
Cork company receives planning permission to build facility on 32-acre site near Kinsale
Solar panels at the Les Mees solar power plant in southern France. A Cork company was granted permission for a 32-acre solar power plant without any prior consultation with the local residents. File photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images
A community group in Co Cork is calling on the Government to develop national planning guidelines for large-scale solar developments after a company was granted permission for a 32-acre solar power plant without any prior consultation with the local residents.
Jagoes Mills Action Group is concerned over the decision by Cork County Council to grant planning permission to a Cork company for the 5MW solar power plant on a 32-acre site at Farrangalway, north of Kinsale, despite the absence of national guidelines.
Tom Coyne, a spokesman for Jagoes Mills Action Group said that they were keenly aware of the targets set by the Paris climate agreement and the Government’s subsequent 2020 renewable energy target and they were supportive of Ireland achieving this target.
“However, without national guidelines, planning permission is being granted to solar power plants on an ad-hoc basis and the site selection is essentially being driven by opportunistic developers, without proper consideration for the natural environment or local community concerns,” he said.
Mr Coyne said the issue was one that was affecting communities across the country and he called for the suspension of any decisions on solar plants until the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government issued national planning guidelines.
Mr Coyne said that in making this request, the Jagoes Mills Action Group was also keen to point out that the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) recently noted that the number of renewable energy planning applications currently in the system exceeded the 2020 target.
“Based on the findings of the Commission of Energy Regulation it would appear that there are enough applications across the country for county councils to learn from solar best practice in other countries and to be more strategic about site selection.”
Local residents within the Jagoes Mills Action Group lodged some 33 objections with Cork County Council, highlighting their concerns over the proposed development including the fact that 28 homes are located within 200m of the proposed solar power plant site.
The group says it is fully supportive of renewable energy generation but is preparing to lodge an appeal with An Bord Pleanála as it feels that “community, environment and infrastructure capacity are important factors to be considered during the site selection and planning approval process.”
The Department of Housing confirmed there are no specific planning guidelines in place in respect of solar farms and said there were no proposals to bring forward such guidelines at the present time but the matter would be kept under review.