Councillors have reacted angrily to a directive from the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and the Environment objecting to plans to restrict wind turbines from within 1km of residential areas.
On Friday, Minister Denis Naughten issued a ministerial directive seeking the removal of this condition from the Wicklow County Development Act 2016-2022, despite it receiving the backing of the vast majority of councillors.
Deputy John Brady said: ‘This condition was put in place as a response to the well-known concerns of locals throughout the county and therefore, as a means of protection for people’s homes. This protection was extremely valid and I welcomed this condition as being absolutely necessary.
‘The fact that Minister Naughten has stepped in and gone over the heads of the county councillors, while at the same time he dismisses the legitimate concerns of the people, is appalling.’
The minister wants text removed from the plan which stated that wind farms would be at least 1,000m, or 10 times the tip of the height of the proposed turbines, from any residential properties or other centres of human habitation.
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald, cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, said the exclusion zone has his full backing.
‘Most of the council are in total agreement with an exclusion zone. The feedback I am getting from most areas is that local communities support the measure as well. I don’t think the councillors will be changing their minds, despite the directive. I’m more interested in protecting the health of people in rural areas.’
Cllr Mary Kavanagh is also supportive of the restrictions.
‘No one fully knows the dangers of living beside wind turbines. You have noise and flicker factors which can make for very uncomfortable conditions for anyone living close by. Some people are highly sensitive to noise and it can’t be emphasised enough just how uncomfortable that can be.’
Cllr Edward Timmins fears that the minister’s directive could open Wicklow up to an influx of wind farms, which could hamper the numbers of tourists visiting the county.
‘The main area of economic development for the future in Wicklow is tourism. I think wind turbines would damage the tourism potential of the county. We have beautiful, hilly landscapes and I think wind farms would impinge on Wicklow more so than other countys.’
The minister also wants the removal of a condition in the development plan which also calls for special consideration to be given to the proximity of wind turbine developments to educational establishments, much to the annoyance of Cllr Tommy Cullen.
‘It’s interference from the minister. What is wrong with placing a restriction on wind farms so they aren’t too close to schools and other places where children congregate? Basically the minister has set aside our conditions, which isn’t what the majority of people in Wicklow want. There is also a problem over the impact wind turbines have on land and property values.’
Submissions regarding the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022 can still be made to the planning authority up until January 5, 2017.
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