Fears that nine wind turbines 185m in height planned for Westmeath and part of Meath might be in a flood zone and might also damage protected views and heritage within a wide area were voiced at a Meath County Council meeting over a proposal for a wind farm submitted to An Bord Pleanála.
The Bracklyn wind farm proposal is being presented as strategic infrastructure and bypasses the normal planning sections of the county councils except for the need to consult them on the project.
Council official Orla O’Brien gave a 56-page presentation on the Bracklyn wind farm strategic infrastructure development application that was made to An Bord Pleanála at the December meeting of Meath County Council. The main part of the planned wind farm is in County Westmeath but there is a portion in County Meath.
The company behind the project made an application to An Bord Pleanála on October 5 this year. Meath County Council has a ‘consultee’ role within the process and ABP make the final decision. Given the scale and nature of the proposed development, the application was accompanied by an environmental impact assessment report and impact statement.
It is planned to build nine 185m wind turbines at Coolronan, Ballivor and the project has already met opposition in the area. Some 150 local residents attended a community meeting on the issue in late October. The Westmeath part of the project is in the townlands of Ballagh, Billusown, Ballinacor and Bracklyn.
The views of the Meath councillors were being canvassed at the council meeting. Also, the environmental and heritage section of the county council sought further information on the project.
In the planning assessment, the key considerations were population, human health, biodiversity, land and soil, water, air quality, climate, cultural heritage, noise and vibration, shadow flicker and material assets. It was stated that the county council supported the application in principle.
The chief executive’s report on the development will go to An Bord Pleanála this month and comments from councillors will be included.
Fine Gael Cllr Noel French said that it was important that councillors voice their concerns about the proposed wind farm.
He said he would be concerned that the portion within Meath would be within a flood zone. They had had a lot of discussion about flood zones during deliberations on the county development plan.
The proposed turbines were 185m in height so the zone of visibility was 20km, and that caused concern about protected views and heritage sites.
The views from Loughcrew, Loyd and Trim Castle were important and the turbines could compromise the views from Loughcrew. He was concerned that there was no photo montage from the upper part of Trim Castle.
There were new guidelines on wind farms in 2019 but he said these were still only in draft form and they were unsure whether all those guidelines would be approved.
Given that the lifespan of the wind farm was 30 years, he said there should be an “end of life” plan for the complex, and funding should be provided for one.
Cllr Paul McCabe (FF) mentioned that Bord na Mona had an application for 25 turbines in the Ballivor area and if that got planning permission, along with the Bracklyn proposal, was there a possibility of over-development.
Would the Bracklyn plan affect the residential amenity and the character of the area and what impact would it have on the cultural and natural environment in the area, he asked. Cllr McCabe said there was considerable opposition in the area to the development.
He wanted to know if the portion of the development in Meath was rateable and what monetary gain would there be for Meath County Council.
Cllr Micheál Gallagher (SF) said that when wind farm guidelines were published in 2006, the maximum height for turbines was 50m – “these proposed turbines are 185m, far longer than Croke Park”.
Ms O’Brien said that the county council would concur with Cllr French’s comments on the proposal in relation to visual impact and flood risks, and also the impact on cultural and natural aspects. She said that there was a proposal to provide €15,000 per turbine per year for 15 years as part of a neighbourhood scheme. In Meath, the nearest a turbine would be from a dwelling would be 2.5km.
Cllr Alan Tobin (FG) said that the Bracklyn company stood to make a lot of money from the project and he thought that €16,000 per turbine for the neighbour scheme was a small amount of money to be giving back. Residents living with 1km of a turbine would be entitled to €1,000 a year towards electricity costs
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