14 February 2017
By Elaine Murphy
Group wants stop to new developments until planning guidelines are agreed
A community group in Kinsale, Co Cork which is spearheading a campaign for planning guidelines for large-scale solar development, today demanded that the Government formally respond to Cork County Council’s call for a moratorium on solar farms in Cork County.
JMAG (Jagoes Mills Action Group) made the request given that a motion, unanimously passed by Cork County Council on 28 November 2016, calling on the Department to invoke a moratorium on solar energy power plants in Cork County until detailed planning guidelines for large scale solar developments are in place, has not received a response from the Department.
JMAG also made the call following a recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to uphold Wexford County Council’s refusal of permission for a 200 acre solar farm. As part of the decision, the Board issued a Direction suggesting that granting a solar development on such a scale may be premature pending the adoption of national, regional or local guidance or strategy for solar power.
Stressing JMAG’s support of the Paris climate agreement and the Government’s 2020 renewable energy targets, Tom Coyne, a spokesperson for JMAG, stated: “If solar energy is to be an important part of Ireland’s future energy mix, we feel that it is not only logical, but responsible that the government enacts detailed solar-specific policy, legislation and planning guidelines as soon as possible to ensure best practice, proper regulation and a strategic, plan-led approach to this new industry in Ireland.”
Tom Coyne also noted: “Given the recent An Bord Pleanála decision highlighting the limitations of the planning system for solar development, we would contend that the position of Minister Simon Coveney and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on this issue is now untenable.”
Despite the 2020 Paris Climate agreement, JMAG contends that the Government and local authorities were completely unprepared legislatively for the development of a solar industry in Ireland. Over 100 applications for large scale solar developments were lodged with local authorities and over 20,000 acres of agricultural land were under some form of solar contract by October 2016. JMAG fears that the failure of the Government and local authorities to act with respect to planning guidelines, combined with the aggressive pace of applications from solar developers is resulting, and will continue to result, in incoherent and uncontrolled development of the solar energy sector in Ireland.