Westmeath County Councillors will have to go back to the drawing board after the government rejected its amendment to the new county development plan relating to wind farm set back distances.
Last September members agreed to a proposal put forward by Cllr Peter Burke that the county’s new development plan for the years 2014 to 2020 should “strictly” direct industrial windfarms to cutover or cutaway bogs.
It also defined an industrial windfarm as one containing turbines over 100m to blade tip, one with five or more turbines or one with an output of 5MW.
Councillors also agreed to Cllr Johnny Penrose’s proposal that the set back distance from residential areas should be ten times the height of the turbine.
While the government had written to the council warning it that its proposed guidelines were at variance with national policy, on Monday it emerged that the Minister Jan O’Sullivan has informed the local authority that it has to re-examine its policy on set back distances.
It is believed that the council has two weeks to put an advertisment in the local media alerting people to the goverment’s decision and alerting members of the public that new submissions can be made.
Deputy Robert Tory has criticised the goverment saying that it has not taken on board the wishes of the of Westmeath’s county councillors who had been democratically elected and are expressing the views of the majority of people in their communities.
“I have said all along that this is a national issue and needs to be dealt with nationally. The goverment must bring forward clear, robust legislation and engage with all affected parties.”
Cllr Peter Burke stressed that, contrary to some reports, the only aspect of the county development plan that has to be looked at again is the policy relating to set back distances.
He added that his proposals relating to cutaway bogs and the definition of an industrial wind farm had been “accepted in its entirety”.