Wind turbine vote has council in a spin

A PROPOSAL by two county councillors for the council to impose a moratorium on wind turbines in Laois resulted in a full blown disagreement at County Hall this week, with county manager Mr Peter Carey advising the councillors there was nothing that the local authority could do.

A PROPOSAL by two county councillors for the council to impose a moratorium on wind turbines in Laois resulted in a full blown disagreement at County Hall this week, with county manager Mr Peter Carey advising the councillors there was nothing that the local authority could do.

The motion was put forward by Cllr Mary Sweeney and Cllr Padraig Fleming, who both called for a moratorium until the national guidelines on wind energy development are released.

“We would like a little more time for people to look at it,” said Cllr Sweeney. “People objecting to wind farms feel that they don’t have a voice.”

Cllr Sweeney said that there are concerns about the height and amount of wind turbines and their effects on people’s health.

“These are massive projects and they will take time. We have time, so we can slow this down,” she said.

Cllr Fleming said that since the county development plan had been passed in 2011, there are ever more powerful turbines being built.

“The current guidelines are not acceptable, that’s why we’re asking for a moratorium,” he said.

Many of the councillors agreed that a review of the county plan was needed.

“It’s a totally different ball game now, these (turbines) are huge,” said Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald.

“Our county plan is outdated,” said Cllr James Deegan, adding that Ireland was in the process of destroying its own landscape to meet the energy needs of England.

However, while the county manager acknowledged that everyone was concerned, he said that planning is a legal process and a democratic one and the county council simply could not act on the councillors’ proposal.

“I’m still asking for a review of the development plan,” said Cllr Fitzgerald. “This is a democracy, not Cuba.”

Cllr Fleming said it was time to change government policy and he called for a vote on the motion of a moratorium. The vote was passed nine to seven, with seven members absent and two abstentions.

Mr Carey said he was going on record as having advised the councillors that legally they could not impose the moratorium.