Councillors seek advice on windfarm
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”