Fears Kildare county plan wind energy policies will be ignored

Wind turbine
Fears that An Bord Pleanala will not take into account any new Kildare wind farm county plan policies when adjudicating planning applications, were expressed by Cllr. Fiona O’Loughlin at the Kildare Area Committee meeting this morning, October 16.

Fears that An Bord Pleanala will not take into account any new Kildare wind farm county plan policies when adjudicating planning applications, were expressed by Cllr. Fiona O’Loughlin at the Kildare Area Committee meeting this morning, October 16.

In advance of a Labour party motion to include wind energy stipulations in the plan at a council meeting next Monday 21, she asked council officials if the board had to abide by any such policies.

Element Power’s plan to construct 750 turbines across five counties including Kildare. Mainstream have confirmed they will have no stand-alone wind farms in Kildare, although there are up to four farmers who have signed up near the Offaly border.

Kildare County Council Director of Services John Lahart said the board would have to have regard for the policies but they did not have to abide by them. Kildare Labour councillors want to include stipulations in relation to turbine set back distances to houses, possible affects on indigenous businesses, health and other variations in the plan. At the September Kildare Area Committee, Cllr. Suzanne Doyle asked for independent advice on the proposed wind turbines. This morning, Cllr. O’Loughlin put forward a motion suggesting the council tighten up its policies in relation to large scale industrial wind energy developments.

“If these proposed developments were to happen, it could have serious impacts on tourism, the bloodstock industry, property values and landscape in general,” she stressed.

The meeting was informed the review of the wind energy guidelines - which focuses on noise, proximity and shadow flicker - would be published in two weeks, and there would be six to eight weeks of public consultation. The final guidelines will be published in 2014. Element Power’s Greenwire project’s expects to lodge its plans by mid 2014.

Mr. Lahart said the county manager would be asked to make a submission, and the councillors would be asked to compile a report to once the file is lodged with An Bord Pleanala under the Strategic Infrastructure provision.

The companies say the plans will be lodged with the board and not with county councils because the projects overlap county borders, and the sheer size of the development makes it eligible under this planning avenue.

An Bord Pleanala can refuse to accept the application and direct the companies back to the county councils. However, Mr Lahart believes it is likely the board will accept the applications. Members of the public can also lodge submissions once the plans are submitted.

Cllr. O’Loughlin said it was ironic that Labour were proposing Monday’s motion given that Minister Pat Rabitte has been pushing this issue forward. She said she knew all the Kildare area councillors had been at a number of public meetings.

“There is a real fear out there for residents in their communities, particularly those who are caring for horses,” she said.

She stressed she attended a very balanced public meeting last night, October 15, where 70 to 80 people turned out to hear representatives from Greenwire and a group against the project speak.

She said it was a huge issue for people in the Kildare electoral area and the height of the 185m turbines was of particular concern, where the only turbines of similar height was based in Germany and on the prairies in Canada.

Cllr. Tony O’Donnell said the concerned residents who have been holding these meetings across the west of Kildare were reasonable people who were open minded and willing to change their opinion based on evidence. He said the energy was destined for the UK market, but asked what would happen if these markets decided to reach their renewable energy targets through other means, or pulled out of the targets altogether and decided to pursue nuclear power.

“Ireland would be left with a wasteland of wind turbines,” he said.

He said he supported the motion and hoped the voice of Kildare would be heard.

Cllr. Doyle asked for someone to address them with independent advice. Cllr Michael Deely said it was hard to get impartial advice as most people were either for or against them. He said when he was in Germany at the weekend, where he spoke to people whose property values had dropped because they were living in the vicinity of wind turbines. John Lahart suggested someone from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) could speak to the council.

The wind farm companies have refuted claims that wind farms would have any affect on health or property prices. They stress they’ve held numerous information days and are willing to engage with communities. They point out there is no evidence of any impact of turbines on stud farms or livestock.