Waterford City and County Council has become the latest local authority to call on Environment Minister Alan Kelly to block the construction of wind farms until new national guidelines are introduced.
It follows the adoption of a cross party motion signed by representatives of all the political groupings on the amalgamated authority at last Thursday's monthly meeting of the plenary Council in City Hall, Waterford.
Watched from the public gallery by members of anti-pylon and anti-wind farm groups, the motion was moved by Cllr Michael J O'Ryan (Fianna Fail), Cllr Damien Geoghegan (Fine Gael), Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (Sinn Fein), Cllr John Pratt (Labour) and Cllr Lawrence "Cha" O'Neill (Independent) and was adopted following a 20 minute debate.
Fianna Fail party whip, Cllr Michael J O'Ryan proposing the motion said it would be "premature" to grant permission for new wind farms until the national guidelines are introduced. He said the current guidelines, which were first introduced in 2006 are "no longer fit for purpose" and are "outdated."
The Comeragh Cathaoirleach added "...The National guidelines are no longer fit for purpose in relation to size, height, tolerance levels and closeness to residential dwellings to name but a few as they are outdated and developers area attaining planning permission in some cases on this mismatch between what the guidelines were initially and where they should be now."
Cllr O'Ryan called on the Minister to take cognizance of this and published the new guidelines immediately and to consider biomass as a viable alternative.
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (SF) said that when the County Development Plan was passed in 2011 allowing Wind Farms, Councilors could be forgiven for not realising the negative impact they would have.
"It was not foreseen at the time that this type of development would cause such division within rural communities, pitting neighbour against neighbour and causing fractures in what were once very close knit rural communities."
Better Alternatives To Wind Energy
Cllr Tom Cronin (FF) said the planning guidelines were now 10 years old and there are better alternatives to wind energy such as the conversation of Moneypoint Power Station to biomass while the Mayor of Waterford City and County, Cllr James Tobin said he has never witnessed any public issue "as contentious or as divisive" as wind farms.
Sole Dissenting Voice
Of the seventeen speakers during the debate, Cllr Joe Conway (Ind) was the sole dissenting voice.
"Wind is working for Ireland," he claimed. According to provisional EirGrid figures, last year saw over 18% of Ireland's electricity coming from wind energy and the first three months of this year from January to March has seen 27% of Ireland's electricity demand met from wind energy.
"There are local benefits for us here which accrue through investment, rates, development contributions, jobs in construction and operation, and community benefit schemes operating through the lifetime of the project.
Cllr Conway believed the Council should not be distracted from considering planning "at the first appearance of sectional pressure" and "should show fairness and even-handed treatment of all, and we should display the grit to point this out."
Welcome for Adoption of Motion
Lobby group, Rethink Pylons, welcomed the adoption of the motion.
Paddy Massey, from Lismore, a spokesman for ReThink Pylons, said, "The country is waking up to the threat that these monstrous industrial wind factories pose not just to rural Ireland but the country as a whole."