The county with the largest number of wind turbines in the State, and which produces the most energy from wind, has called a halt to further wind energy development, a move which risks the intervention of the planning regulator.
“Kerry has done enough”, several councillors insisted during a marathon three-day meeting on the new county development plan. Communities have been divided and “scarred” by the hundreds of turbines already built, many near houses, the meeting was told.
The scenic county, which is largely dependent on tourism, already has 364 wind turbines installed, with dozens more having received planning permission, councillors said, voting unanimously to all but ban the further erection of on-land wind turbines.
All areas open to consideration for wind energy in the Draft Kerry County Development Plan are now being removed with the exception of Kilgarvan townlands designated on a map, it has been decided in the second and final phase of consultation.
However, council management has warned the proposal is bound to provoke the ire of the Office of the Planning Regulator, which already told the council not to “unreasonably limit wind energy development” in the light of national policy.
Pleas from county manager Moira Murrell that the move would draw the intervention of the planning regulator were ignored by councillors.
Under the draft plan, all but a number of townlands in the mountains around Kilgarvan and Clonkeen straddling the Cork-Kerry border, and areas in future where there may be community wind development, have been deemed out of bounds to wind energy companies.
Instead, the plan recommends other sources of renewable energy must be sought and even marine based-wind farms must be located in sensitive areas
Councillor Niall O’Callaghan has urged the council executive to “fight tooth and nail” on the issue.
“The planning regulator has no reason to blow us out of the water when it comes to that map,” he said in reference to a map of Ireland showing Kerry as not only having the highest number of turbines, but also generating vastly more megawatts per square kilometre – the county has currently the potential to produce 742MW.
The wind energy issue had generated almost 1,500 submissions from Scartaglin and east Kerry alone – more than any other single issue.
The planning regulator came also under fire from councillors on a number of other issues, with recommendations on town status and zoning rejected.
“The planning regulator is the most powerful unelected official in the country and the only way for a local authority is to go to court,” said Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae.
He led the charge against the recommendation that Milltown, Kerry’s fastest growing town, be repositioned from a regional town to a district town in the 2022-2028 county development plan.
Land in Killarney was €1m an acre, and even zoned land would not be built on and would remain in use as agricultural, the meeting heard. The cost of housing was out of reach of most people. Therefore, surrounding towns and villages had to be developed, the meeting was told.
“People need to be able to live somewhere,” mayor of Killarney, Labour councillor Marie Moloney said.
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