Fine Gael TDs want regulations changed so that electricity-generating wind turbines – some of which are almost 50 metres taller than Dublin’s Spire – have to be set further back from houses.
The move poses a dilemma for the Government, which faces hefty EU fines if an agreed target of 40pc energy from renewable sources is not met by the 2020.
But Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon said public concerns must be met as giant turbines are a serious threat to quality of life in communities.
“We feel a balance must be found between the need to develop energy from alternative sources – and people’s rights to have proper planning,” said Mr Heydon, a deputy for Kildare South.
Planning Minister Paudie Coffey yesterday said he was examining whether a proposal backed by Fine Gael TDs – to increase set-back distances from 500m to 700m – can apply and in what circumstances. He said regulations dated from 2006 and the technology has totally changed in the intervening decade, with a trend towards much higher wind turbines.
“I expect the revised guidelines will be completed within weeks. It is a complex matter and we have to be conscious of energy needs as well as community and planning issues,” Mr Coffey told the Irish Independent.
The need for change is also backed by Labour TDs and the matter is a huge political issue in certain parts of the country. But tensions exist between the demands facing Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Energy Minister Alex White, as changes may hit Ireland’s EU obligation to meet wind energy targets.
Increasingly, wind-energy companies want to build turbines as tall as 170 metres – 50 metres taller than the Dublin Spire.
A ‘height-to-distance matrix’ clause – whereby the higher the proposed turbine the further back it must be from the residential property – is being considered. Fine Gael TDs and senators, clearly keen to see progress ahead of the general election, want to see the new regulations as soon as possible.
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