Environmental constraints could ‘unreasonably’ limit Kerry wind power

Planning regulator tells Kerry County Council to change draft development plan

Environmental and amenity “constraints” in Co Kerry, could “significantly and unreasonably” limit the development of wind power, the Planning Regulator has said.

The regulator, who made the comments in his statutory appraisal of the draft county development plan, said the “need to decarbonise energy sources” will require further wind energy development in appropriate locations if the targets set out in the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2021 are to be met.

The regulator said he recognised the contribution that Co Kerry has already made to the generation of renewable wind energy.

He also said he recognised the draft plan “overall” addressed national and regional planning requirements.


But the regulator said the draft County Development Plan contained some restrictive aspects in respect of zoning land for wind farms, for which there was “a lack a clear policy or evidence basis”. He said the methodologies used to identify suitable sites “have the potential to significantly and unreasonably limit wind energy development, when combined with other environmental and amenity constraints”.

Elements of the draft Plan should therefore “be reviewed”, he said.

However local authority and commercial interests have claimed Kerry already provides 18 per cent of the State’s wind energy, while the spectacular environment of the mountains, lakes and seascapes help it attract 1.5 million tourists annually.

The tourism sector in Kerry was worth €550 million to the local economy in 2019. The county attracts 13 per cent of all overseas visitors to Ireland, and has the greatest concentration of tourist accommodation outside of Dublin offering some 50,000 beds


Kerry County Council has also targeted tourism as the sector with “the most potential for growth”. The council was asked for a comment on the regulator’s submission, and one is expected.

Kerry county councillor John O’Donoghue said the issue was “a very hot topic” among members of the county council. He said Kerry accounted for 4 percent of the State’s population, but already produced 18 percent of the State’s wind energy.

Mr O’Donoghue said he believed in areas like the Black Valley and the hills around Killarney environmental protection including special area of conservation designation would be in place. But he said areas in the north of the county, around Ballylongford were already heavily populated by wind farms. While every county had a responsibility to provide for wind generation, people were anxious that large tracts of Kerry would not be “blighted”, he said.

County Councillor Niall Kelleher president of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce said “we would not be of the same opinion” as the regulator. He said the section of the plan relating to wind farms was written by professionals with regard to the guidelines issued by Government.

“I certainly believe the draft County Development Plan was weighted to reflect those guidelines,” he said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist