THE concerns of local residents need to be listened to when it comes to the granting of planning permission for solar farms.
That is the plea from Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, who recently met with concerned community groups in Shannonvale, Enniskeane and Castlelack, who all voiced their concerns about planned solar farms in their areas.
Ms Ní Riada said that while the development of renewable energy was a crucial priority for the future, the concerns of local residents must always been listened to.
‘It’s important to point out that none of the people involved are against the development of solar panelling themselves, they merely have a number of concerns about the proposed placement of the panels in regards to things like proximity to their homes, and the suitability of the surrounding roads to handle the increased traffic, and the type of machinery that would be required to build and maintains these stations,’ said the Ireland South MEP.
‘Their concerns are completely reasonable and must be heeded by planners; for their own sake as well as that of the residents. After all, nobody knows these areas better than the people who live there.’
Ms Ní Riada called for ‘clear and sensible legislation’ on where installations can be put, how big they can be and what sort of protections are required for the environment.
‘Renewable energy infrastructure is crucial for the future of the country but so is the peace of mind of people in areas where it is to be built. There is no reason these two goals must be mutually exclusive,’ she said.
The MEP said that if the Government is serious about the need for renewable energy and serious about protecting rural Ireland they need to begin drafting legislation on these installations immediately.
Residents in Shannonvale said they had a constructive meeting with Ms Ní Riada and local Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) in Phair’s Bar to discuss a proposed solar farm in their area. They pointed out that Grade 1 agricultural land would not be used for this purpose in Europe and companies would also not be allowed to build close to residential properties.
‘Liadh was very supportive of the residents’ view and agreed to submit questions to the European Parliament to see what directives may be affected by these largescale projects,’ said a spokesperson for Shannonvale Community Association.
Last December, Amarenco Solar indicated that it plans to seek planning permission for a 5MW solar farm at Beanhill South, and wrote to several residents to inform them of their plans, but a planning application has yet to be submitted.