Thursday, January 10, 2019

LOCAL public representatives have promised to hold a meeting with the council’s head of planning over concerns about the Kellistown battery storage centre.

Both Carlow County Council and local public representatives came in for a grilling about what they had done or, specifically, not done at a public meeting in Rathoe last week.

Deputy Pat Deering and senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, along with county councillors Ken Murnane, Charlie Murphy, John Murphy, William Paton and John Pender, were in attendance. They were quizzed by local people about why Carlow County Council had not already refused permission for the proposed development.

Deputy Deering said that planning decisions were an executive function of council management and not something public representatives were directly involved with.

It was the view of some at the meeting in Rathoe Hall that the council should have knocked the proposal from energy multinational Engie on the head on the day one.

Cllr Ken Murnane defended the council planners, stating they were doing their best to gather all necessary information. This would ensure all bases were covered and that their decision would not be summarily overturned in an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Cllr Charlie Murphy believed the application would, regardless of the council’s decision, end up being appealed to An Bord Pleanála for a final decision.

However, the council refusing planning permission for the project would be a great boost for locals and would place the onus back on Engie.

If the council kept posing questions that Engie could or would not answer, it would not reflect well on the company when it came before An Bord Pleanála, added deputy Deering.

Senator Murnane O’Connor said it was important for the local community to fight against the project due to the questions it raised and likened it to the pylon issue. The senator believed the battery facility should be located underground and claimed similar facilities were located underground in Australia.

She added: “This project is definitely something that can’t happen. I think the dangers are there long term with these chemicals being so close to you.”

The application is due to be decided at the end of January, although there is still a possibility that the council will seek further clarification from Engie.

Deputy Deering offered to arrange a meeting between public representatives and the council’s director of planning to raise locals concerns.

Cllr Murphy asked what question locals would put to planners. Meeting chairperson William Rooney replied: “Can you say to the people of Rathoe that if you grant this application, it is safe?”

Cllr Murnane said it was likely that planning permission would already have been granted if locals had not raised their concerns.

One woman added that you would not build a house out of materials you knew nothing about. “How can you grant planning permission if you do not know what you are granting?” she asked.

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By Michael Tracey
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