Local group calls on council to adopt minimum separation distances for wind turbines

A lobby group that stopped a €20 million windfarm project outside Mullingar two years ago, has called on Westmeath County Council to adopt a Senate bill that recommends minimum separation distances between turbines and houses as part of its next County Development Plan (CDP ).

“At the present time any multi-national company can come into villages like Multyfarnham, Dysart, Mliltownpass, Castletown Geoghegan, or Rochfortbridge and place huge industrial turbines within 500m of housing estates, as there is no protection for the residents in the County Development Plan,” said Emily Wallace PRO for the Midland Industrial Wind Turbine Action Group.

As it stands there is no law governing how near a wind turbine may be from a house, only an EU recommendation of 500m.

Presently there is a bill before the Dáil, which has already gone through the Seanad, proposing statutory minimum separation distances of between 500m and two kilometres for turbines between 25 and 150m tall.

“I am calling on the councillors in Westmeath to make a variant to the current County Development Plan and to bring forward a debate as a matter of urgency on the areas suitable for wind farms,” she said.

The Development Plan is Westmeath County Council’s six-year blueprint for the proper planning and sustainable development for the 190,000Ha in the county, and the present one will be replaced in 2014.

“The review is ongoing and plans are afoot at present, but we are requesting the issue with regard to windfarms to be taken as a serious one, and one that cannot be passed over any longer. This will give the people of Westmeath a say on this issue whether for or against wind turbines in residential areas,” she added.

The group has been driven back into action after discovering that the company behind a huge windfarm - planned across five Midland counties to provide exportable electricity for the UK - was approaching landowners in the region with offers of up to €18,000 a year for up to 25 years to site a turbine, and that gag clauses in these contracts were keeping neighbours in the dark about such plans.

Ms Wallace’s main problem is that these contracts may be written according to the old CDP, where no statutory separation distance is defined.

“If they [the council] want to put people in villages and not be building in the countryside, surely there should be some rules concerning this. That would be the start of a proper plan,” she added.

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