WATERFORD City & County Council has refused planning permission for a 3.88 hectare solar energy park, which was to be located in Kilbarry as part of Ireland’s first ever eco-community. It is understood that the decision was made because the land, which the farm was proposed for, is currently zoned as “open space for recreational and amenity purposes”. It is understood that the decision to refuse planning came as a shock to the developers Kilbarry Development Ltd, as the council were apparently supportive of the project, so much so that a “spokesperson for Waterford City & County Council” was quoted in a May 2018 Irish Independent article saying that they were “supportive of the Kilbarry Sustainable Community pilot and while not direct funders of the project, WCCC is keen to see the project progress”.
Fine Gael Councillor John Cummins who has been working on various elements of the Kilbarry project, told the Waterford News & Star that he was “disappointed with the decision”.
“I have to question why it wasn’t brought before the elected members to ascertain their views via a material contravention (due to its open space zoning),” Cllr Cummins said. “I have worked with the promoters of this project and I believe they have fully engaged and openly spoken of the merits of linking housing with solar energy so as to eliminate energy bills and thus put more money into the local economy via the pockets of the new householders. This is a model which I favour and I think it is a retrograde step to refuse permission without first gauging the views of the elected representatives, especially as a new development plan and new framework document for the Kilbarry area are currently being devised which could alter the current status of certain lands in the area.”
Cllr Cummins added that he would encourage the promoters to “resubmit their plan, seeking a material contravention” (which would rezone the land).
“The lack of objections to the plan would indicate an openness by the local community to the proposal but they need to continue to be appraised of the plans and how they can benefit from same,” he said
Green Party Councillor Marc O’Cathasaigh was also disappointed with the decision.
“My understanding of the specifics of this particular planning permission was that it was refused on a zoning issue – that the area was designated as open space for recreational and amenity purposes,” he said. “However, it does bring into sharp focus the need for a National Land Use policy, and for that to be related down to our new County Development Plan. We’re going to see renewables increasingly become part of our energy mix, and solar in particular here in the South East, and we’re going to have to be able to plan for this accordingly. The model of community-owned solar, along with community areas for growing and forestry, has worked really well in Cloughjordan, for example. We’ll need to reflect this new kind of thinking and the new technologies available when our next County Development Plan is being drafted.”