The State’s planning watchdog has criticised councillors from a landlocked county for watering down plans to allow wind farms in their area because they wanted a greater emphasis on offshore renewable energy.
Planning regulator Niall Cussen suggested Kilkenny County Council would not make a fair contribution to meeting national targets on renewable energy if its members tried to move the focus to wind farms based at sea.
A row has erupted between Mr Cussen and the council over the refusal of councillors to adopt his recommendations concerning renewable energy, particularly wind farms.
Councillors rejected recommendations made by the Office of the Planning Regulator to reinstate parts of Co Kilkenny as “acceptable in principle” for wind farm development in a new county development plan on the basis that there should be a greater emphasis on offshore wind and solar farms.
However, Mr Cussen claimed the reference to offshore wind farms was irrelevant.
“Kilkenny is not, however, a coastal county and the reference to offshore wind is not obviously relevant to the contribution of the county to realising overall national targets on renewable energy,” said Mr Cussen.
He said councillors did not address how alternative renewable energy sources could compensate for the restrictions they had placed on wind energy development.
Councillors came under pressure from local communities including the Save Our Hills group to change the original proposals in relation to wind farms with more than 600 submissions pleading for alterations to the wind energy strategy section.
The draft development plan had set a target that 100pc of the electricity needs of the county would be met from renewable sources by 2030, including the number of windfarms and megawatt output necessary to meet such levels.
It also identified a total land area of 50,000 hectares as “acceptable in principle” for wind energy development.
However, councillors voted to reduce this designated area to 35,000 hectares.
Independent Cllr Eugene McGuinness said: “I’m 100pc behind green energy but not in this way and not at any cost.”
The OPR has recommended the Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, use his ministerial powers to compel the council to change its county development plan to comply with its recommendations.