Eighty five per cent of County Plan submissions relate to windfarms

Westmeath County Council is expecting an avalanche of submissions following a variation to the County Development Plan’s windfarm guidelines.

Acting manager Barry Kehoe made the comment as he asked the council to start the process that will see the variation come before the public before it is added to the plan, if passed.

The variation allows for no turbines higher than 100m and describes a development of more than five turbines as ‘industrial’.

The maximum power per turbine will be five megawatts.

Mr Kehoe said the criteria for deciding on where turbines go will be based on the landscape suitability, and environmental assessments will be necessary in any case.

He said no one wants to see turbines near the Hill of Uisneach or near Westmeath’s lakes.

Of 900 submissions already made regarding the new County Development Plan, 762 or 85 per cent relate to turbines, Cllr Denis Leonard said.

He said this indicates the huge concern the people of Westmeath have about potential windfarms.

He said the variation before councillors is “cumbersome” but gives “breathing space”.

Mr Kehoe said the variation doesn’t refer to minimum distances because that “tends to be a blunt instrument”.

He said it would be better to wait until the national guidelines are published next year, especially as any decision before that could impact on smaller scale turbines, like those on farms which councillors wouldn’t want to affect.

Cllr Colm Arthur again sounded a note of discord, saying he didn’t agree with the route taken by the council, that he lives close to Offaly which has a more open approach to windfarms.

He put this down to the significant Bord na Mona presence in the county and said the county manager in Offaly had even spoken at a turbine meeting.

Cllr Arthur said a motion like the variation before the council puts future jobs, funding, and opportunities in Westmeath in jeopardy, because other counties will take up the slack.

He said that living near the Offaly border he will be able to see the turbines there when they are erected, but he’d rather see them in Westmeath, where he says they would deliver local benefit.

“We should have as many sites as possible in this county,” he concluded.

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