Laois County Councillors have once again called on the county manager to make amendments to the County Development Plan to take into account proposed wind farms.
Cllrs Padraig Fleming and Catherine Fitzgerald both argued that the council should start their midterm review of the current County Development Plan next month and specifically examine the wind the county’s wind energy strategy.
But the County Manager, Peter Carey, said there would be no variation to the Plan until he had seen the Department of Environment’s draft guidelines, which should be published in November.
“It would be an utter waste of public money and make no sense to commence a variation until we have sighted the guidelines,” he said.
Cllr Fleming said he felt this was a positive statement, but Cllr Fitzgerald queried the timeframe, saying it could be mid-summer of next year before the guidelines are in place.
Senior Planner, Angela McEvoy explained to councillors that it would be next year before a variation on the plan was adopted, by which time there could be further legislation and they would have to go back over it again.
Cllr James Daly said the wind companies had timed their applications to perfection.
“I fell that Laois County Council is going to miss the boat on this one. If that happens it will be regrettable,” he said.
While Cllr James Deegan issued a word of caution to his fellow members.
“We have to take into consideration that we are engaging in a quasi-judicial process. Any application that is turned down by Laois County Council or An Bord Pleanala will eventually end up in the High Court and if due process has not been followed here, they (the wind companies) will be the big winners.”
In a seperate motion, Cllr Mary Sweeney had also proposed that no planning permission shall be issued for a wind farm in the council until after such time as the National Planning Guidelines had been reviewed and revised.
The Manager said he fully accepted that this was an emotive issue and said it was unhelpful the way the energy companies went about their business, but he could only act on the current Development Plan until new guideline are introduced.
In a respose to the motion, Minister for State at the Department of Environment, Jan O’Sullivan said all applications for wind energy must be “rigorously assessed” under the current guidelines.