Coun­cil­lors seek ad­vice on wind­farm

Irish Examiner - - News - Christy Parker

Water­ford coun­cil­lors are to seek in­de­pen­dent le­gal ad­vice on whether they can vary the county de­vel­op­ment plan fol­low­ing a set­back in their bid to pre­vent a ma­jor wind­farm de­vel­op­ment in the west of the county.

The coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Michael Walsh, de­clined to ex­e­cute a vari­a­tion re­quest, hav­ing sought di­rec­tion from se­nior col­leagues, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and le­gal ad­vis­ers.

Mr Walsh was asked to vary the plan af­ter a Ger­man en­ergy com­pany, through its sub­sidiary, Innogy Re­new­ables Ire­land Ltd, ex­pressed in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ing a re­new­able en­ergy project near Lyre­nacar­riga, on the Water­ford-Cork county bor­der.

The pro­posed scheme is un­der­stood to in­clude 25 tur­bines on both Coillte and pri­vately-owned lands. The com­pany sub­mit­ted a pre­plan­ning con­sul­ta­tion re­quest to Bord Pleanála.

West Water­ford al­ready hosts sev­eral smaller wind­farm de­vel­op­ments amid con­cerns in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Last month, coun­cil- lors, on a 28-1 ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion, sought to vary the county de­vel­op­ment plan, ar­gu­ing the coun­cil had been de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to draw up a cus­tom­ary plan for 2017, due to the 2014 city and county amal­ga­ma­tion.

How­ever, at a July ple­nary coun­cil meet­ing, Mr Walsh said the wind­farm is­sue re­flected a “grow­ing chasm be­tween the lo­cal will and a na­tional pol­icy that favours such de­vel­op­ment”.

He said the vari­a­tion was “too site-spe­cific” and “de­signed to frus­trate a spe­cific de­vel­op­ment pro­posal” while con­flict­ing with na­tional pol­icy.

Mr Walsh be­lieved the 2011 de­vel­op­ment plan was “validly made for ob­jec­tive rea­sons” along­side re­quired en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments. He also felta ju­di­cial re­view or min­is­te­rial or­der would set aside a vari­a­tion.

How­ever, Fianna Fáil coun­cil­lor James Tobin, who lives in the area con­cerned, said the de­ci­sion proves that, con­trary to what “the top ta­ble tells us”, a county de­vel­op­ment plan “is not our plan, but a plan for the ex­ec­u­tive”

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