Council urged to develop solar farm policy
Councillor John Hegarty's motion for Wexford County Council to develop a policy for dealing with solar farms was discussed at length at the meeting.
Cllr Hegarty said that he raised the issue in light of the growth of solar farms in Wexford and the expectation for more in the near future.
'I am in no way being critical of the planning department,' he said. 'There is no national policy or sign of one in the near future. I am suggesting that they come up with a policy we can discuss.'
'It is not about being for or against solar farms.'
Cllr Oisin O'Connell fully supported Cllr Hegarty's motion but suggested an amendment which read: '...and we demand the government in formation of the scheme exclude any development that does not comply with this policy to be adopted.'
Cllr O'Connell later spoke further about his concerns.
'I am concerned that hundreds of acres have been granted already. How many more before the government passes policy?' he said. 'I don't want the lack of policy now being used as a way to grandfather policy down the road.'
However, most of the other councillors agreed that this should be put in a separate motion, saying that one concerned local policy and the other national.
Cllr O'Connell did not want raise his suggestion separately. The original motion was later passed without amendment.
Mr Larkin said that they are working their way towards a policy which they expect will be in place next year. In the meantime, he said that they have adopted rules for dealing with solar farms.
Though some of the councillors felt that the legislation plans should be brought forward, Mr Larkin said that it must be written into the county development plan and therefore, can't be rushed.
Tom Enright said that the policy in place at present is effective in terms of the way solar farm planning applications are looked at. He said that draft policy can be made available to applicants for guidance.
'It's great to get it (the policy) as soon as we can but we should be encouraging renewable energy,' he said, saying it creates employment and encourages other businesses to come to Wexford.
Despite the motion being passed, Cllr Jim Moore said that he was concerned about the 'national deficit' in policy concerning solar energy. Cllr Malcolm Byrne suggested that Wexford 'lead the way' by creating a policy that may be used elsewhere as a template. Cllr Tony Dempsey said that as public representatives, he and his fellow members must educate themselves on solar energy, particularly as some people associate dangers with it. 'It is a whole minefield,' agreed Cathaoirleach Cllr Paddy Kavanagh, who said that all implications including the disposal of old solar panels must be looked at.