News of the looming Greenway boost to the North Kerry economy is being tempered by increased fears in the region of an explosion in wind turbine development under the Government’s new Climate Change plan. The plan aims to see 70 per cent of the nation’s energy derived from renewables – chiefly wind turbines – by 2030 in a massive trebling of the previous green aims.
And it’s feared that North Kerry is in line to shoulder a disproportionate volume of the energy tech required to meet the target while a controversial document finding vast tracts of the region to be of no scenic or tourism value continues to underpin planning.
Already, 66 per cent of the wind turbines in Kerry have been established in the northeastern most quarter of the county, with the Stacks Mountains covered in the giant structures. “When wind farm plans are appealed to An Bord Pleanála the first reason the board gives in granting planning is that the plan is in accordance with national policy – now more so than ever.
“The second reason given is the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA). It keeps coming up and in my view it will be opening the floodgates to increased wind energy expansion in North Kerry,” former chair of the North Kerry Tourism Forum John O’Sullivan said. That assessment finds vast tracts of North Kerry to be unimportant in terms of scenery, tourism and recreation – even Ballybunion. Kerry County Council has meanwhile been promising to review the LCA since 2017. But it is still firmly in place and now seemingly intractable under a ministerial directive precluding any changes to renewable policy prior to the publication of the Government’s long-heralded guidelines.
Mr O’Sullivan – who ran unsuccessfully in the locals on this issue – said the only solution in the near future is for councillors to push through a change to the LCA, even if it incurs a legal response from the Government. “We already have 275 of the 411 turbines in Kerry at a time when we’re trying to grow tourism. The Greenway funding was welcome news, but tourism will be greatly constrained by the expansion of wind farms across the whole region.”