British planning directives are reportedly being used as guidance for solar energy farms where cells stretch across the landscape.
However, a Kerry County Council meeting yesterday rejected putting a stay on future planning applications for solar farms. Six solar energy applications came before the council in the past 12 months, councillors were told. They range from a 5MW solar farm on 30 acres at Astee in north Kerry to a 20-acre farm at Madam’s Hill, near Killarney.
Some of the farms have been granted conditional permission but a proposal by Terra Solar Ltd at Ballygrennan, near Listowel, on an elevated site has been refused permission as it would be “unduly obtrusive”.
Fine Gael councillor Mike Kennelly welcomed the refusal and asked the council to put “a hold on all new and current planning applications that relate to solar farm applications” until there were national guidelines.
“These developments have a huge impact on the environment, particularly in rural areas. These can be put up anywhere in Kerry, at present,” he said.
Fine Gael councillor Aoife Thornton said applications for solar farms were coming in fast in north Kerry but Independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae said there should not be a stay on applications as solar farms presented an income for farm families with marginal land.
Michael Scannell, director of planning, said each application was being analysed thoroughly on its merits.
As well as British guidelines, planning decisions by An Bord Pleanála on solar wind farms were being studied by council planners.
“While there are no specific Irish planning guidance regarding solar energy and there is no indication that such guidance is imminent, British guidelines are available,” Mr Scannell said.
Were the council to decide to refuse planning permission for a solar-farm development “solely on the basis that the application is premature, pending the issue of guidelines, the council could leave itself open to a claim for compensation”, the planning official said.