Laois County Council is on a collision course with a Government Minister over wind turbines after voting to effectively ban wind energy from the county.
County councillors have voted by a narrow margin to include a so-called ‘red zone map’ for turbine development in the new Laois County Development Plan. This map designates no area of Laois as suitable for wind energy generation.
A majority of councillors voted against a yellow map which included designated areas of Laois for turbines. The map was proposed by Mr John Mulholland, Chief Executive.
The CEO warned the councillors in advance to adopt his proposal. They had rejected the proposal earlier this year.
“If members proceed, it means Laois County Council is making a decision that it does not support wind energy. This is against Government policy. My advice is there should be some zoning,” he said.
They voted 9 to 8 to reject the CEO’s proposal to replace the red map.
The six Fine Gael councillors led the vote to keep all windturbines out of Laois, Cllrs Willie Aird, Tom Mulhall, Dave Goodwin, John King, Mary Sweeney and John Moran, joined by Fianna Fail’s Paddy Bracken and Seamus McDonald whose areas north of Mountmellick contain a yellow zone, and Independent Cllr Ben Brennan.
Voting with the CEO’s proposal to use the map with yellow zones, in the hope of keeping some control over windfarm zoning in Laois, were Cllrs Caroline Dwane, John Joe Fennelly, Catherine Fitzgerald, Padraig Fleming, Jerry Lodge, Paschal McEvoy, Aidan Mullins and Brendan Phelan.
Cllrs James Kelly and Noel Tuohy were absent from the meeting.
A copy of the new county development plan now goes to the Environment Minister, coming into effect four weeks from today.
The CEO told councillors, “You must now furnish me with a sustainable argument, reasons why the report was not accepted,” he said.
A number of wind turbine companies challenged the ban on zoning for turbines.
They said it would be unlawful, and against EU laws on renewables. They also described the decision as “irrational” and “violation of property rights of landowners”.
They also argued that the councillors had failed to give “coherent scientific reasons” for the ban. They said there could be legal costs in potential legal challenges, in the high court, including damages.
Brian Ramsbottom from the Swan, Luggacurran, Wolfhill, Stradbally wind awareness group was in the gallery.
“The councillors seemed confused what they were voting on. Some were concerned that it is better to have the yellow areas left, but we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Overall I am happy with the vote, but there is a fear now that the Minister can come down and blanket the county,” he said.
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