A total of 25 councillors voted to adopt Waterford City and County Council CEO Michael Walsh’s view that An Bord Pleanála should refuse permission for a proposed major wind farm on the border of West Waterford and East Cork.
Views of local authority planners and elected representatives were sought ahead of An Bord Pleanála making a decision on Curns Energy Ltd’s application to build 17 large turbines standing 150m high on a site at Killeagh, Co Cork, that stretches into Tallow, Co Waterford.
Director of Services, Economic Development & Planning, Michael Quinn told the Plenary meeting on Thursday last that the Strategic Infrastructure Development, due to its scale and importance, is referred directly to An Bord Pleanála for decision rather than to the Local Authority. During a workshop the Council was briefed on the scope of the development.
Cllr James Tobin stated that he would be looking at 160m pylons every time he looked out the window, as the proposed development would be less than a mile away from his home. Given that a lengthy discussion was held in the workshop, he said the Council should endorse the view of the CEO’s report. He was pleased that the executive had come around to the thinking of 1,000 people in his area, who sent in objections or submissions. Cllr Tobin thanked a committee, who opposed the development with “dignity and with honesty”.
“There is no place for conflict in a small community. They opposed it for all the right reasons,” he said. “We opposed it because it was going to destroy our community.”
He also thanked Cork councillors for voting against the development, but his only regret was the company lodged a planning application in the middle of “the greatest pandemic” ever seen.
Seconding Cllr Tobin, Cllr John Pratt (Lab) acknowledged the hard work of Cllr Tobin, Cllr Declan Doocey and himself in trying to change the development plan over a long time. He was delighted at the recommendation of refusal, but stated that it was “disingenuous” of Cllr Conor D McGuinness for calling on the Local Authority to put in an objection in a newspaper report when they had been told of the Council’s intention at the workshop.
In response, Cllr McGuinness said Cllr Pratt’s comment was unfortunate as they were singing from the same hymn sheet, and also stated that he has been making the call for some time. He said that the CE’s recommendation should be endorsed, and asked the Council to call on An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission.
Mayor of Waterford Damien Geoghegan wanted it put on the record that the workshop didn’t occur at the request of Cllr McGuinness or due to his say so, but it was part of the statutory process.
Cllr Declan Doocey remarked, “this is people power at its best”, referring to the huge amount of submissions made locally, and said he supported the recommendation.
On the other side of the fence was Cllr Joe Conway, who stated that he would be voting against after considering the report. He said the issue will have a great impact on generations to come. “Climate change won’t affect most of us here, but for those of us who hope to leave a legacy behind to our children and grandchildren, I want to say that I did my bit.”
Meanwhile, Cllr John O’Leary welcomed the report, which points out the possible impacts on human health, noise and shadow flicker. However, he asked where the Council was in reaching its renewable energy quota.
Also against the proposal was Cllr Jody Power, who went to great lengths to explain the “existential crisis” around climate change. He asked the councillors in West Waterford to do their part to ensure Waterford’s and the nation’s energy needs are met.
Not seeing communities being divided was bottom line for Cllr Donal Barry, while Cllr John Hearne understood the emotions of those involved in the campaign against the proposal, and suggested that wind turbines be placed off shore.
Living within two miles of eight turbines, Cllr Pat Nugent said he had no issue with those, but said he did with the height of the proposed turbines, and the fact that houses close to turbines are devalued when selling.
Expressing his frustration, Cllr Jason Murphy said they all recognise the global challenges in relation to the environment. He wanted to know what the Council was actually in favour of, as opposed to against.
Cllr Joe Kelly said he was for floating wind farms off the coast and micro generation, while Cllr Pat Fitzgerald said there would be consequences whether they were onshore or offshore.
Meanwhile, Cllr Liam Brazil recalled the stress and devastation proposals for 160m high turbines had in the parishes of Bonmahon, Faha and Stradbally.
Following a roll call vote 25 voted for, four against, one abstained and two councillors were absent.