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Appeal for public to back exclusion zone; Call for submissions on keeping turbines 1km from houses

Members of the public are being urged to lodge submissions in support of a restriction zone preventing the establishment of wind turbines from within 1km of residential areas.

The majority of councillors voted in favour of Cllr Shay Cullen’s call for an exclusion zone which would restrict wind farms from at least 1,000m, or ten times the tip of the height of the proposed turbines, from any residential properties or other centres of human habitation. However, Minister for the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, has issued a draft directive demanding that the restriction is removed from the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022.

Submissions regarding the County Development Plan can be made up until January 5, 2017, and Cllr Cullen wants the public to have their say.

‘I would urge as many people as possible to make submissions. This is a crucial issue for rural communities in particular.

‘Everything possible must be done to ensure that wind turbines can’t be built within 1,000 metres of someone’s home,’ said Cllr Cullen.

In his draft directive, the Minister maintains that councillors, in making the Development Plan, ignored or didn’t take sufficient account of submissions made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in February and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in August 2016,

He also argues that the Development Plan is not in compliance with some of the requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Cllr Cullen has accused the Minister of interfering in Local Authority affairs and remains adamant that the wind turbine restrictions should remain part of the Development Plan.

‘Wind turbines are a major issue which could affect an awful lot of people in Wicklow. A distance was set which was voted for by councillors on two occasions. I don’t think the Minister should be interfering. You have noise issues and the shadow flicker effect, while wind turbines also diminish land and houses prices. There are real concerns over the impact wind turbines have on people’s homes.’

Meanwhile, South Wicklow Wind Action Group (SWWAG) has called for a moratorium on wind farm planning applications.

The group this week outlined that it intends to file objections to the proposed removal of the exclusion zone.

Spokesperson Richard More-O’Ferrell said that the Minister’s direction is ‘all the more worrying’ in view of the recent outcome of a long-running High Court case where a wind turbine company was sued by a number of families in Cork.

‘There now is a possibility for multiple legal actions against wind farms right around the country. The legal implications for the wind industry are significant. The use of inadequate and out-dated planning guidelines may come back to haunt the industry, planning authorities and Government,’ he said.