In 2017 the North Westmeath Turbine Action Group (NWTAG) was formed in response to growing public opposition to the first of several planning applications by Coole Wind Farm Ltd (CWF) for an industrial scale wind farm, grid connection and other associated works near Coole in north Westmeath.
NWTAG is a locally-based group representing the interests of residents, businesses, small farmers and people living in north Westmeath, the area most likely to be affected by the impact of an industrial wind farm that if permitted, would result in the construction of fifteen 175 metre high turbines.
The group’s primary aim is to prevent the industrialisation of the countryside in the northern part of Westmeath.
NWTAG would like to see a more tailored approach in the way central government is attempting to generate sustainable energy and is opposed to its “one size fits” all approach that seeks to promote the construction of industrial wind farms as the primary method of reducing the State’s carbon omissions.
“It is an approach which clearly isn’t working yet the government is attempting to force the people of the midlands to accept the siting of industrial-size turbines that at over 60 storeys high are amongst the highest in Europe. Their size and scale are necessary because counties like Westmeath have some of the lowest wind speeds in the country and are unsuitable for the industrial generation of wind energy.
When Coole Wind Farm (CWF) first applied for planning permission for 13 industrial scale turbines in north Westmeath in June 2017 Westmeath County Council sought 53 pieces of further information in order to process the application, which forced the withdrawal of the planning application. CWF then reapplied with a virtually identical application in the autumn of 2017 which Westmeath County Council rightly refused planning permission for as the application contravened P-WIN 6 in their planning guidelines. Undeterred, Coole Wind Farm took the case to An Bord Pleanála and after more than a year of deliberation their application was granted planning permission in March 2019.
In response, NWTAG applied for and were granted a Judicial Review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision. That case came before the commercial high courts and was heard just as Covid restrictions were being imposed and a judgement has yet to be made on the case.
In recent months Statkraft, the company behind Coole Wind Farm, has attempted to secure planning permission for its wind farm by applying directly to An Bord Pleanála on the pretext that their application is a Strategic infrastructural Development (SID). This means they can circumvent any oversight of their plans by Westmeath County Council and go straight to An Bord Pleanála to seek planning permission.
The public participation involved for Coole Wind Farm SID consisted of a letter and an invite to look at a website that only went live in January. This was the extent of their engagement with the people who are expected to live with these monstrous industrial structures on their doorsteps.
If something of this scale is to be permanently imposed on this area then at the very least Coole Wind Farm should have waited for the easing of restrictions in order to consult in a meaningful way with the public.
Despite the difficulty in raising awareness of this planning application over 35 submissions went in to An Bord Pleanala signed by over a hundred people representing many families all of whom are opposed to Coole Wind Farm. This shows the extent of public opposition to CWF’s application and NWTAG would like to thank all of those who took the time, made the effort and paid the €50 to write personal and informative submissions to An Bord Pleanála.
NWTAG are also pleased with the support that it has received from councillors Ken Glynn, Johnny Penrose, John Shaw, Emily Wallace and Andy Duncan who remain steadfast in their support of our community and unlike some others they consistently refuse to bend to central government in their attempts to remove CPO 10.143 from the County Development Guidelines for 2021-27. Their opposition to this wind farm was also matched by local TDs Sorca Clark and Johnny Guirke who put in a joint submission to An Bord Pleanála.
It is just a shame that a small number of our councillors have chosen to ignore the evidence of just how devastating a wind farm of this scale will have on a county that has already suffered years of neglect from central government.
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