WATERFORD Councillors are to seek independent legal advice on altering part of the County Development Plan in order to reject wind turbines.Parts of West Waterford from Tallow to Youghal are currently classed as a preferred zone for wind energy development.Interest in engaging in a development in the Knockanore area has been expressed by a renewable energy company.justice
However, Councillors voted overwhelmingly last month in support of having ‘no go areas’ for wind turbines.This has been rejected by the CEO of Waterford City & County Council Michael Walsh who maintains the local authority would be at risk of financial and legal costs if it contradicts national policy.He revealed his decision before the July plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council commended in Dungarvan on Thursday last.Reacting to the news during the meeting, Cllr James Tobin (FF) outlined his dissatisfaction.He said Councillors had constantly been told the County Development Plan was “their plan”.“Today it’s been proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that it’s not our plan, it’s a plan for the Eexecutive. It’s a plan for people higher than us,” he said.“I’m beginning to wonder if we have any business here at all. It’s our right as elected members to vary the plan.”He added that if any planner should ever again tell him that the County Development Plan is “ours”, he will laugh at them.
He proposed that Councillors seek independent legal advice as to the variation and that this advice be paid for by the Council but the legal representative would be chosen by the Councillors.Cllr Tobin asked that nothing happens in relation to a development in the area in question until such time as “we come back with our legal advice”.His proposal was seconded by Cllr John Pratt (Lab) who expressed his disappointment at the CEO’s decision.“I thought there might have been a positive outcome,” he said.Cllr Pratt outlined that there had been different outcomes in other counties where similar situations had arisen.
“It’s a sad day for Tallow, Knockanore and West Waterford,” he said.Cllr Pratt said Councillors were not seeking to change the plan “for the sake of it”, adding that there were “genuine reasons” for doing so.Cllr Damien Geoghegan (FG) supported his fellow Councillors.While he said he “respected” what the CEO was saying, he pointed out that a “chasm” had now opened up between the Executive and elected members.He pointed out that Councillors were now exercising a right which they “didn’t do lightly”.“In my 19 years as a public representative I don’t believe it has been exercised before,” he said.“I believe it’s our entitlement and right as elected members to get independent legal advice regarding the interpretation of rules regarding the County Development Plan. It’s the very least we should do and the very least we’re entitled to.”In response, Michael Walsh said he was agreeable to the proposal put forward and was happy to facilitate Councillors seeking legal advice provided it comes from “a person or person of consequence”.