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Councillors pass motion on ‘blanket ban’ on wind farms in Laois

Councillors in Laois passed a motion at their monthly meeting yesterday (Monday) to initiate a process that will see a “blanket ban” on wind farm developments in the county.

Cllrs Pádraig Fleming, Catherine Fitzgerald, Paschal McEvoy (FF), Mary Sweeney, John Moran (FG) and Noel Tuohy (Lab) put forward the motion that the county manager “commences the process of a variation of the (2012-2018) county development plan (CDP) in respect of the wind strategy for the purpose of removing the areas designated as suitable for wind energy development.”

Proposing the motion, cllr Fleming said that in April 18 months ago, councillors had forwarded a motion to look for a variation of the CDP “but we were told it was too early. It’s now one and a half years later. We’re not going to wait for 99 weeks for a full review to take place. This issue has been in the public domain for the past two years. When the CDP was being devised, no-one had any idea what was planned. What’s being proposed by these wind farm companies is phenomenal. Some proposals are for 600 feet high wind turbines. It was absolutely criminal what An Bord Pleanála (ABP) did to the Cullenagh mountain. They allowed Coillte to go ahead and surround people’s houses with wind farms. I propose we start a variation of the CDP to protect people’s homes and properties.”

Seconding the motion, cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said: “When we addressed the CDP, no-one envisaged the size and scale of these wind turbines. Because of that, we should start the CDP again with a blank canvass. It is only fair and in the remit of councillors to vary the plan.

Director of services Anna Marie Delaney said that new national guidelines relating to wind energy were “imminent.”

She said that when they are made known, the CDP could be revisited and, if needed, amended by varying it to fit in with the new national guidelines. She said that the motion before the council was not in keeping with government policy and she “wouldn’t be surprised if you (councillors) didn’t get a ministerial direction on it.”

Cllr Mary Sweeney said that she was supporting the motion. She said that the plans approved by ABP for the Cullenagh mountain would “cause a lot of devastation in the area.”

Cllr Noel Tuohy said: “Communities should not have to be obliged to go to court. They should be able to trust the planning process. The most disturbing aspect of the wind farms are the developers throwing money at communities. It’s bribery and trying to get communities to roll over. I urge community groups not to accept this type of money. It’d be like going back to the brown envelope days.

Ms Delaney told the councillors: “What you’re proposing with that motion is a blanket ban on wind energy in the county.”

Cllr Willie Aird said that he, too, supported the motion. “There are no hares around these turbines. No rabbits or no deer coming near them. The wording is 100% perfect. Go ahead with the motion.”

“A blanket ban is the only way to go,” said cllr Paschal McEvoy.

Cllr Brendan Phelan said that, at this stage, he also supported the motion.

Cllr Tuohy said: “This is a red letter day for Laois Co Council. Councillors are doing what they were elected to do and that is to represent the people who elected them and represent their views.”

The motion was adopted without any dissent from councillors.