Windfarm firm undecided on appeal after €20m project is refused

Gaeltech Energy Developments Ltd (GED ), the Cootehill-based company which had its application for a windfarm in Gaybrook turned down this week, has not yet decided whether to appeal the council’s decision to An Bord Pleanála.

“We’ve not decided yet,” said a spokesperson, before adding there would be no further comment at this time.

On Monday, the council’s planning department turned down the application for the nine, 135-metre turbines because it felt such a development was “not consistent” with Department of Environment’s 2006 wind energy guidelines for local authorities, and deemed its“ location, scale, height, siting, and separation distance from buildings...would give rise to a visually dominant and obtrusive form in an open and attractive rural area...and would result in serious injury to the visual amenities of the area”.

The lobby group against the wind farm, the Midland Industrial Wind Turbine Action Group (MiWTAG ), said that over 300 houses will be “directly affected” by the proposed windfarm, and declared “there are 251 houses within one kilometre of a [proposed] turbine and the nearest property to one will be 500m away”.

The planners at Westmeath County Council felt Gaeltech also hadn’t adequately assessed alternative sites around the county, and that the turbines would “adversely impact upon the historic character of the landscape” which it deemed “ necessary to preserve”.

“A collective sigh of relief will be evident among the residents of Gaybrook,” said local councillor, Colm Arthur, who called the decision this week “significant”.

A spokesperson for MiWTAG has welcomed the decision, and wished to thank all involved in the campaign.

“We would like to thank Westmeath County Council on their decision and for requesting the further 32 points of information [from Gaeltech] to try and relay (sic ) our fears in relation to the proposed wind farm development,” said Emily Wallace.

“We wish to thank also the committee and all of those persons who worked tirelessly on the ground to gather and relay information to the public [without whom] this proposed development may have gone ahead unknown to the general community and unknowing of the implications involved”.

In January, GED applied to erect a dozen, 135m high, 2.5mW wind turbines, but after 336 submissions from the public following a orchestrated campaign by MiWTAG, and a request for additional information on 32 points from the council, GED revised its plans and re-submitted them on July 20. These new plans reduced the number of turbines from 12 to nine, reduced the maximum height of four of the turbines to 125m, re-located the switchroom and anemometer nearly a kilometre to the south, and proposed running the subsequent electricity underground to the Mullingar sub-station in Irishtown.

Each 2.5Mw turbine would have cost about €2 million to install and would generate approximately €400,000 worth of electricity each year from 2013. In line with the Kyoto agreement, Ireland is committed to provide 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources in the next 10 years, up from only 8 per cent in 2005. The forecasted investment in this technology is expected to be in the region of €12 billion nationally over this timeframe.

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