Westmeath to propose strict new windfarm rules

Westmeath County Council is to propose by a majority of sixteen to four to tighten up its policies on industrial wind farms in the new county development plan, set to come into force in February.

There were three councillors not present for the vote.

The new measure says that the council will 'strictly' direct industrial wind projects to cutaway or cutover bogs.

It also lays down a definition of what constitutes an 'industrial' wind farm development - one containing turbines of over 100m to blade tip; one of five or more turbines; or one with an output of 5 MW.

The vote was on a counter proposal by Cllr Denis Leonard (Labour) to a proposal by Cllr Frank McDermott.

The vote was in line with the Variation 14 amendment currently going through the process for inclusion in the current County Development Plan, proposed by Cllr Peter Burke (FG), current cathaoirleach.

In a separate vote, councillors opted to approve a proposal by Cllr Johnny Penrose (Lab) that turbines of 100m or more be required to be set back from residences by a distance of 10 times the height of the turbine.

There was also approval - following a vote - of a proposal by Cllr John Shaw (FF), changing the 'medium' capacity rating given to an area of the county around Raharney and Delvin to 'low' capacity.

The votes came as a disappointment to the IFA, which had been strongly lobbying councillors in the run up to today's crux meeting.  The IFA viewpoint was that the councillors, by directing the windfarms towards bogs, were effectively 'sterilising' farmers' lands in a manner that represented an infringement on their property rights.  The IFA had several representatives present in the chamber for the debate.

Those who supported Cllr Leonard's proposal were: Cllrs Tom Allen (FF), Peter Burke (FG), Fintan Cooney (FG), Mark Cooney (FG), Detty Cornally (Lab), Paul Daly (FF), Aidan Davitt (FF), Mick Dollard (Lab), Ken Glynn (FF), Peter Keaney (Lab), Frank Keena (FF), Denis Leonard (Lab), Gabrielle McFadden (FG), Johnny Penrose (Lab), John Shaw (FF) and Avril Whitney (FF).

Those who voted against were: Cllrs Colm Arthur (FG), John Dolan (FG), Joe Flanagan (FG) and Frank McDermott (FG). 

Not present were Cllrs Ger Corcoran (Lab), Kevin Boxer Moran (Ind), and Cllr Paddy Hill (FF), who left under the vested interest rule.

The issue was discussed during a meeting on the County Manager's report on submissions.  The public will have four weeks during which they can make submissions on the amendment.