ACCORDING TO Clare County Council, the structures are in place to make sure Clare benefits from the development of renewable energy off its coast.
That was the message at the September meeting of the County Council from Director of Service Liam Conneally who said development contributions are still likely to be required, even if the development is off the coast.
He was responding to a motion from Kilkee-based Cillian Murphy inquiring what mechanisms were in place for Clare to benefit given “the extremely significant future investments that will be made in off-shore renewables in Clare, and in the absence of rates income for these off shore developments”.
Councillor Murphy wished to clarify how, under planning legislation, these developments could deliver added income through levies for the provision of housing, amenity, waste, roads and other infrastructure necessary to ensure ourcommunities can capitalise on the increased economic activity.
A written reply provided by Mr Conneally said, “The Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act 2021 defines the nearshore area for coastal planning authorities as an area extending three nautical miles (5.6km) from the nearest point of the high-water mark so the new development contribution scheme will provide for contributions payable for developments on land and on this 5.6km nearshore area.
“Offshore renewable energy projects are unlikely to be developed within the nearshore area, however offshore renewable projects will need to bring electricity generated to land to connect to the national grid and there will be a requirement for other development on land (assembly of wind turbines, dry ports, wet ports, green hydrogen electrolysis facilities, etc) to support any offshore developments.”
His reply also said that such a category will be considered in the preparation of the Council’s next development contribution scheme.
It also said that where applications are made directly to An Bord Pleanála for the development of Strategic Infrastructure, there is provision for the authority to impose conditions requiring payments to be made to benefit the local area in question.
“In the above regard I consider that there are sufficient mechanisms in legislation to deliver community benefit from all future strategic infrastructure development proposals on and off the coast of Co Clare,” Mr Conneally’s report concluded.
Councillor Murphy proposed setting up a working group, consisting of representatives of communities, industries and the County Council “to ensure that everyone is on the same page as to what can be done, where it can be done, how it can be done, what’s needed in advance to make sure that it happens and what benefits it’ll bring.”
The Fianna Fail representative also said that the development is set to start in the next few years and it is now time to start getting prepared.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.