Kildare County Council has voted to impose restrictions “within one month” on developing wind farms close to rural houses.
The move pre-empts national planning guidelines for 500m “set back” distances between homes and wind turbines, as well as restrictions on noise and “light flicker”, which Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said are imminent. The decision to tighten up planning requirements in Co Kildare follows an application for 47 turbines with a blade-tip height up to 169m which is before An Bord Pleanála. The application from Element Power covers more than 40 turbines in Co Kildare and a small number in south Co Meath.
While some councillors referred to the Element Power proposal, cathaoirleach Fiona O’Loughlin said the crucial issue in what she called “industrial wind farms” was that “set back distances” between turbines and homes should be 10 times the height of the turbine.
The criterion would see wind turbines with a blade height of 169m being required to provide set back distances of 1.7km from the nearest home.
A draft version of the forthcoming guidelines from the Department of the Environment published in 2013 envisaged a set back distance of 500m.
During the debate councillors were warned by chief executive Peter Carey they should not adopt the proposal. Mr Carey said the move was “premature” and councillors would be leaving themselves open to judicial review. “Let’s be blunt, it would be irresponsible” he said.
However, Fianna Fáil councillor Martin Miley said the council had gone against Government policy on the issue of electricity pylons and its concerns were ultimately taken on board by the Government.
He said the county development plan should be amended to deal with “industrial wind farms”. He urged councillors “to stand up” to Element Power, which he said avoided lodging plans in Westmeath or Laois “because they knew they would get opposition”.
Ms O’Loughlin, who also signed the motion, said the council had been “fobbed off” by the department for 16 months on the question of guidelines. She proposed the motion be agreed, and work on bringing it into effect begin within one month.
The motion to impose the restriction was carried by 19 votes in favour, with 11 against and seven abstentions. Three councillors were absent.
The planning application covers turbines in clusters covering areas of Kildare from Donadea to southwest of Robertstown and around Carbury. In Co Meath the areas affected by the turbines and site works include Moyvalley, Nurney and Johnstown, among others.
Element Power lodged the Kildare/Meath-based Maighne Wind Farm application with An Bord Pleanála. Copies were displayed at yesterday’s meeting.
Bord na Móna is also considering using its lands in the midlands for wind farms.
The Maighne proposal includes the construction of foundations and hardstanding for each turbine, nine site entrances from public roads, construction of 31km of new access tracks, an electricity substation with control buildings and 75km of underground cabling. Element Power has a website, maighnewindfarm.ie, to provide details of its proposals.
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