Some councillors engaged in a heated debate during the draft stage of the new County Development Plan 2022-2028. Here’s what some of them had to say on what is an extremely emotive topic in the county.
Councillors succeeded in altering sections of the draft County Development Plan (2022-2028) relating to areas proposed for wind farm development.
Following hours of intense negotiations, councillors – particularly from the Listowel and Castleisland municipal districts – spoke of how constituents are opposed to further encroachment by wind energy companies in their communities.
Much of the debate centred on Scartaglin and surrounding town lands, described in the draft plan as suitable for wind energy development.
However, residents from Scartaglin lodged an incredible 1,476 objections with KCC.Speaking on behalf of the residents, Cllr Fionnán Fitzgerald (FF) said Kerry’s contribution to wind energy should be recognised internationally given its immense output per head of population.
He said the county had endured a “scarring of its landscape” like no other county, warning that wind turbines are creating a permanent legacy for future generations.
“Kerry County Council is doing its best on this but when you look at Scartaglin, and surrounding areas, what could possibly come upon them is just too much,” he said.
“I have attended public meetings and taken all the calls and messages I can. I have done my level best to engage in this debate. I propose that Area 18 [Scartaglin] be removed from this plan as suitable for wind energy development,” Cllr Fitzgerald added.
Cllr Bobby O’Connell (FG) said wind development is now of “Cromwellian proportions” with an attitude of “to hell or to Kerry” when it comes to turbines.
He stressed that he would be abdicating his responsibility were he not to raise the issue given what people have endured.
He referenced houses in the Barna area [close to Scartaglin] where turbines are “outside the back door of people’s homes”.
“What we have been listening to for the past three days is about the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR). This fella is the new bogyman and we have to be subservient to everything that he says,” said Cllr O’Connell.
“I think it’s time we stood up to him because we have 375 turbines in this county. What are the implications if we turn to the planning regulator and say, no. It’s time to stop,” he added.
Cllr Charlie Farrelly (Ind) said he was aware of families, and relationships, that had broken up because of disputes over wind farms.
He proposed town lands around Scartaglin, earmarked for wind turbine development, be substituted with town lands from the Kilgarvan area.
This was in response to claims made by Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae that certain parts of the topography around Kilgarvan are more suited to hosting wind turbines than north Kerry.
“One of my colleagues has said there are places there [Kilgarvan] that are suitable. I’m proposing that this be examined,” Cllr Farrelly said.
Councillors persistently pressed the point that as Kerry contributes between 18 and 20 percent of the State's wind energy output, they are entitled to say enough is enough.
However, KCC say the impact on communities regarding further wind development has been minimised because of its process, and that areas identified as “open to consideration” does not imply that wind development will take place. Councillors were not satisfied with this. Cllr Aoife Thornton (FG) described the debate as “one of the most defining days” in her time as an elected representative, saying the imposition of wind turbines was north Kerry’s “reality”. She asserted that people in north Kerry have endured enough.
Cllr Michael Foley (FG) questioned the current policy that could see an additional 200 wind turbines erected in parts of north Kerry.
“We are saturated with turbines in north Kerry. In my own village alone [Ballylongford] there are 22 turbines, currently, with six more waiting to be constructed, and 12 more near Cllr Kennelly’s house. Our area is ‘wind turbine alley’. Where is it going to stop?” Cllr Foley said.
Cllr Mike Kennelly (FG) called north Kerry the “renewable energy capital of Ireland”.
On a recent flight home from Berlin, Cllr Kennelly said he noticed the landscape of north Kerry was covered with what he called “white crosses” [turbines].
“Mistakes were made in the past on this issue, and I’m not going to vote for anything here today that will lead to more of these white crosses in my area,” he said.
“We have 364 turbines already. People on the ground have told me they have had enough. It has decimated families and localities.”
Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae (Ind) explained that wind energy was the most pertinent issue he faced during his time as a councillor, particularly in Scartaglin.
“We have played our part and done more than anybody else. At some stage we have to call stop somewhere… I don’t deny that we shouldn’t play a part in alternative forms of renewable energy,” he said.
“It’s comical when I look at submissions from wind energy companies, cribbing about our County Development Plan, and how they feel the number of areas open for consideration for wind turbines is unfair.
“It’s these very wind energy companies that have used Kerry as their playground over the last 15 to 20 years, at the expense of local communities,” Cllr Healy-Rae added.
Cllr Cathal Foley (SF) praised the people entrusted with recording and preserving Hen Harrier numbers in the Area 18 locality of Scartaglin. He said data on the Hen Harrier clearly showed these rare birds are active in the area and in adjoining localities.
“I recently met experts up there who showed me the roosts and where the birds hunt; beautiful, pristine bog land by the way,” he said.
“It was only later, when looking through the maps, that I discovered the area I walked was included for wind development. On that basis, I can’t support leaving Area 18 in the plan,” Cllr Foley said.”
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