The knives were out at Monday’s meeting of Kerry County Council when Cllr John Joe Culloty sliced and segmented an apple in the chamber to demonstrate his contention that wind energy is not reducing CO2 emissions at a substantial rate.
Wind turbines were clearly not the apple of Cllr Culloty’s eye whose demo corresponded with a motion calling on the council to insert into the County Development Plan guidelines for a minimum setback distance of ‘10 times the height’ of turbines from domestic dwellings – as agreed on by councillors at June’s full council meeting.
In 2017, under ‘The Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006’, it was proposed that a distance of a turbine from a dwelling should be set at four times the turbine height, subject to review. However, councillors in Kerry voted to increase this which would see a 150m high turbine located 1,500m from a dwelling – and not the 600m distance as currently proposed.
Cllr Culloty’s core point is that the council need to take the matter into its own hands and press ahead with inserting its ‘ 10 times the height’ policy, irrespective of the outcome of the Government’s Strategic Environmental Assessment policy, which is being finalised.
“I have absolutely no faith in the Department or the Minister when it comes to this issue,” Cllr Culloty said.
“The Minister doesn’t give a whit about the people of Kerry on this issue. I’m calling on the council executive to insert the guidelines – as agreed on in this chamber by its members in June – to our County Development Plan. It’s time we took the ball in our own hands.”
There is approximately 400 wind turbines in Kerry, including cases where turbines have been granted planning but development has not yet commenced. Cllr Culloty questioned whether or not the hands of elected officials in Kerry were tied on this issue as they had agreed to implement their own setback distance. Cllr Jimmy Moloney seconded the motion saying it was an issue that ‘is coming back on us’ every day when meeting people.
But Sinn Féin’s Cllr Toiréasa Ferris said she was astonished at the proposal given that every Fianna Fail and Fine Gael TD had rejected a Dáil Bill by SF Deputy for Laois, Brian Stanley, in 2017 which would have seen a minimum 10 times the height setback become legislation.
However, Council management insisted that implementation of national guidelines is paramount and that it hopes to have a Landscape Character Assessment – which will inform of any revisions to the current Renewable Energy Strategy – finalised by December.
Management also expressed reservations at being ‘contrary to national policy’ as the Minister has advised all Local Authorities to defer amending existing County Development Plan policy until a full review of wind turbine assessment is completed. It also advised that Local Authorities operate under existing policies and objectives.