BY KIERAN O'MAHONY
COUNCILLLORS have criticised the principle of self-regulation for the windfarm industry after it was revealed that the County Council is investigating six windfarms for breaches of planning on foot of public complaints.
At a recent meeting of the local authority, Cllr Bob Ryan's (FF) motion sought answers to several questions about windfarms and the regulations around them.
AÂ report by senior planner Paul Murphy, stated that the Council do not carry out regular inspections of completed developments across the county as to do so âwould require obviously huge resources.'Â
It also outlined that of the 20 windfarms constructed in the county out of over 50 planning applications, six enforcement files are currently open.
The report also stated thatÂ eight windfarm related cases had been investigated by the Environment Directorate since 2012.
Cllr Ryan had also queriedÂ whether the health and safety of residents living near windfarms was monitored in any way by the County Council and was told that âhealth and safety is not a matter that is within the remit of the Planning Acts.' The report also said that there is no one national agency with responsibility for the industry.
CllrÂ Ryan (FF) said he had first-hand knowledge of wind turbines and the damage they do.
âI posed these questions already knowing the answers and find it unbelievable that we can allow these wind farms to be built in our communities with no recourse, â said Cllr Ryan.
âThere is no obligation to inspect them according to planning laws, serious questions need to be answered. In certain places they are encroaching on people's lives. âThere should be some means of regulations for theÂ health and safety of people living near them.'
Cllr Ryan said the Council should ask the Minister for Housing to include an inspection process in their draft review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines, where proposals includeÂ applying a more stringent noise limit and the elimination of shadow flicker.
âMaybe these wind turbines are in places that they're not meant to be. We should be looking after the health and well-being of people and no one is doing it.Â I was horrified to see the impact of wind turbines on people's lives.'Â
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said it was unbelievable that the system was all self-regulating.
âIt does throw the planning regulations into disrepute and it's being thrown to the wind and the vultures. These turbines are erected and nothing changes - expecting the developers to check on these is not good enough,' said Cllr Murphy.
âDraft regulations should make sure that developers are forced to check them.'
Mayor of Cork County Cllr Declan Hurley said that there are many issues surrounding them in West Corkâ âWe're reaching saturation point in some areas. We have a beautiful county and it detracts from this,' said Cllr Hurley.
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said solar farms are springing up all over the place, adding: âWe don't know the impact they'll have just like the wind turbines,'
Cllr Bob Ryan said he was heartened with the support from other councillors.
âThe responsibility lies with the government,' he said.