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Boost in battle against windfarms as minister says part of Westmeath can be made “low capacity”

The battle to keep windfarms out of a tract of Westmeath free of windfarms is set to receive a significant boost today.

Minister Simon Coveney is to announce he is dropping his objection to a Westmeath County Council decision designating Area 7 as being “low capacity”, Deputy Peter Burke has stated.

Deputy Peter Burke said that the Minister confirmed to him this morning that he is no longer objecting to the Area 7 provision in a variation to the County Development Plan passed by the members of Westmeath County Council.

Area 7 takes in what are termed the “western lowlands” of Westmeath, and includes, Moate, Ballymore, Movore, Moyvoughley, Drumraney, Mount Temple and Fardrum.

“This will ensure the area of the vicinity of Westmeath’s most prominent heritage sites – Uisneach – will be protected,” said Deputy Burke.

He added that the area runs close to where the Center Parcs development is to be built, at Forgney, near Ballymahon.

The minister is understood, however, to be standing firm on the other elements of the variation, relating to night-time noise levels and the designation of equine farms as noise sensitive receptors.
However, his decision to allow the change in the wind capacity map goes against the recommendation of an inspector appointed by him to examine the issue.

Explaining that the Minister is now prepared to allow Area 7 of t he Wwestmeath County Development Plan be reduced to low capacity, Deputy Burke saidi that he was satisfied that the Minister had taken into account the “strong feelings” of the elected representatives and the people of Westmeath.

Deputy Burke said he had been in repeated contact with Minister Coveney over the issue and he was relieved at the decision.

“I am happy to finally receive clarity that this protection will remain in the Westmeath County Development Plan 2014-2020,” he said.

“Anyone who has visited the Hill of Uisneach and its surrounds cannot but be impressed by its beauty and the construction of wind farms in this area would completely spoil the natural beauty of the site. David Clarke and his team are doing fantastic work at the Hill and they need to be supported.

“Cllr Andrew Duncan originally proposed the variation and has been working relentlessly on this issue and it is very positive to see that everyone’s efforts, research and passion for their home county is being recognised at the highest level.”

Deputy Burke said that Westmeath must now work to support projects that will attract tourism to the county.