Two wind energy companies have lost a High Court case against the Irish government to stop Laois county councillors from deciding their own county's policy on wind energy.
Element Power and Pinewood Wind Ltd took a judicial review against Minister for Planning & Local Government, Eoghan Murphy.
It came after Laois councillors effectively banned the unpopular windfarms from the county development plan, by wiping out all possible development areas from the county map, and by requesting a 1.5km setback distance from houses.
The councillors' decision was overturned in 2017 by the Minister as it went against national policy but the companies still took a case.
“I see the wind companies have lost their whole argument on challenging our wind policy,” noted Cllr Padraig Fleming at the December council meeting.
Director of Services Kieran Kehoe confirmed that the Council was a 'notice party' to the court case, and it incurred legal costs of up to €50k to be paid out of the annual budget.
A second Judicial Review sought by the companies against Laois County Council itself may still go ahead incurring further costs.
"The companies will probably take time to review the decision, and assess if they want to pursue a case against Laois County Council," Mr Kehoe said.
Ray Conroy is with Laois Wind Energy Awareness and wlcomed the court's decision.
“They wanted the High Court to force the council to ‘revert’ to its previous mapping of Laois which would have given wind companies carte blanche to erect power plants in any free space that they could get their hands on,” he said.
Laois County Council had set aside €120,000 from its 2018 yearly budget in anticipation of the legal fees from the cases.