Deputy Robert Troy has branded “pathetic” a directive from the Department of the Environment which proposes to overturn Westmeath County Council’s windfarm planning guidelines.
Minister for the Environment Simon Coveney informed councillors this week that he was overruling a variation they had made to the County Development Plan, which would place certain limits on windfarm development.
Using his powers under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act, Minister Coveney is directing the council to delete the variations, which aim to impose a night time noise limit of 30db, define equine facilities as noise-sensitive receptors, and designate Area 7 of the wind development map - an area to the east and northeast of Athlone - as an area of low capacity.
These variations were unanimously approved by councillors at their April meeting, in spite of a submission from the Department of the Environment stating that they were in conflict with Government policy and would seriously restrict the potential for wind energy development in the county.
In this week’s directive, the Minister said that Westmeath County Council had “ignored, or has not taken sufficient account of” this submission.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Deputy Robert Troy (FF ) said it was regrettable that Minister Coveney was not taking the concerns of the people of Westmeath, and their elected members, into account.
“What the Government is trying to impose will not be adopted by the members of Westmeath County Council; their feelings are not going to change. The Minister is not recognising the concerns of the people of Westmeath and the wishes of their democratically elected members.”
He added that the Government are acting under outdated guidelines from 2006.
“The previous Government was lax at reviewing the national guidelines. It is pathetic that the new Government has come in and imposed outdated regulations; the 2006 wind energy guidelines are out of date and don’t recognise that wind turbines have grown in size, width, and height.”
Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Frankie Keena (FF ) said the council was facing “an uphill battle” to convince the Minister of their position.
“It is frustrating and annoying the way things are progressing. The power of the elected members is being taken away, and it seems we are fighting a losing battle.”
Westmeath County Council must yet again now seek submissions from the public, this time in respect of Minister Coveney’s draft directive. The issue will be further discussed at this Monday’s county council meeting in Athlone.