By Cronan Scanlon
THE Mayor of Donegal has been granted leave to appeal a decision by the Minister for the Environment to overrule restrictions placed on wind farm developments by county councillors.
During a brief hearing in the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday, Miss Justice Iseult O’Malley, granted Cllr John Campbell leave to appeal Minister Alan Kelly’s decision and to apply for a judicial review.
The appeal is expected to be heard within the next three months. Donegal County Council was a notice party in the case.
At the end of June, councillors voted to vary the County Development Plan in favour of restricting wind farms. They voted 18-11 to create a set-back distance ten times the tip height of the turbines, or one kilometre, from residential properties and other population centres.
However, on October 3, Minister Kelly issued a direction under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act which resulted in the immediate overturning of the councillors’ decision.
Cllr Campbell also confirmed that a separate application to have a stay put on the implementation of Minister Kelly’s direction will be heard in the High Court on January 12.
He is arguing that the Minister, in making his direction, acted “beyond his powers” under the Planning Act and that he did not set out clearly his reasons for doing so.
Speaking to the Donegal News yesterday (Thursday), the Independent councillor said he was “very happy” in relation to Justice O’Malley’s decision to grant him leave to appeal.
“The Minister claimed we (councillors) did not take a letter he sent to us in May, into consideration when making the variation. However, I am strongly disagreeing with that,” he said.
Cllr Campbell confirmed he is taking the case personally and that he will be covering his own legal costs. However, he hopes to have his costs covered by the State as the matter is of great public interest.
He was represented on Wednesday by Junior Counsel, David Browne and Senior Counsel Richard Lyons who are instructed by Cavan-based solicitors, James M Donohoe.