Councillors present draft submission on windfarm objections

Councillors presented a draft submission to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government regarding windfarm development at Monday's Westmeath County Council meeting in Mullingar.

The draft document, which Athlone councillor Paul Hogan was heavily involved in researching and writing, details the reasons for the council's refusal to alter variations made to the County Development Plan placing limits on windfarm development.

Last year, councillors approved a variation to the County Development Plan which aimed 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.

In response, Minister for Coveney used his powers under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act to direct the council to delete the variations. However, councillors have remained steadfast in their defiance.

The draft document presented at Monday's meeting included 11 reasons why the council is refusing to alter the variations.

In the first instance, councillors say that in the absence of updated guidelines on windfarm development, they must work to "protect the rural amenities and communities of Westmeath".

The document quotes the Marshal Day Report, 2013, which states that a 2.4km setback distance and written consent from every household within the 2.4km radius must be satisfied before any windfarm construction can take place. These elements have not been satisfied, they say.

It notes that 2006 guidelines say a 500m setback distance is required when the average height of turbines is 54 metres, but that turbines for renewal energy export are some 3.5 times as high.

Referencing case law, the document notes that there is hard evidence that properties located in close proximity to windfarms have seen their value drop by around 20 per cent.

Also mentioned is the negative effect windfarm construction will have on the rich tourist potential in the region, which includes UNESCO World Heritage site, Uisneach.

Other reasons given concern health, including how the turbines could impact on people's sleep, and the wellbeing of any children with autism living in the vicinity. A survey by Davis and Steigler (2010 ) which examined 17,000 children with ASD found that 40 per cent were hypersensitive to sounds.

The council will review the draft submission before making amendments and forwarding it to the Minister inside the next two weeks.

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