Weak windfarm guidelines

Laois’ elected representatives are calling in unison for stronger rules on wind turbines.

Laois’ elected representatives are calling in unison for stronger rules on wind turbines.

Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan says guidelines are outdated.

“It is imperative that the Minister introduce mandatory statutory guidelines for wind farms. The current guidelines from 2006 are both insufficient and outdated. We need a greater consistency across local authorities in planning regulations for wind farms,” he says.

He says the windfarms can be located in cutaway bogs in Laois.

“We have many that would provide an ideal location and there are a number of elevated sites in rural areas that can also be identified. I am in favour of wind farms but it is crucial that local communities are fully informed and are also reassured that the proper guidelines are in place,” he said.

Dep Flanagan has asked Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to reopen consultations on planning guidelines for wind energy.

“Minister Hogan assured me in the Dail that an extended public consultation process will take place later this year once the draft guidelines have been published. This will allow local communities to engage fully on the matter,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley says the guidelines are “weak and open to interpretation”.

“While I accept the need to develop the sustainable energy sector, giant wind turbines are being planned without any proper regulation in place. All we have are guidelines which are not enforceable. What are required are proper regulations to cover issues such as minimum distances from houses, the height of the turbines, noise and flicker problems. They also need to provide protection for the visual landscape and environment and proper consultation with local communities.”

He is unhappy with wind energy companies buying land rights in areas not designated for turbines.

“Not only is Vicarstown not a preferred area for turbines in the plan, it is not even in an area that is open for consideration. The County Development Plan must be given primacy on this issue. Guidelines are of little value, regulations are urgently required before large parts of the midlands are covered with giant turbines to provide cheap power to the UK. There is no point in bolting the door when the horse has bolted.” Dep Stanley said.

Senator John Whelan says secret negotiations being done are detrimental to the community.

“Developers of wind farms across the midlands must come clean on their proposals and the impact of their plans on householders and communities. The size and scope of what is being proposed is unsound, unsafe, unreliable and unsustainable. The claims on employment potential and economic windfall are grossly exaggerated,” says the senator, who adds that wind energy offers great opportunities.

“Only if it is progressed in a sensible, transparent and secure way. Setback and proximity from existing homes, the impact on health and property values, the scale of wind farms and the manner and means in which they will be connected to the grid must all be on the table and not dealt with as an afterthought. The hundreds of wind farms being proposed are not just an issue for landowners looking to cash in on a windfall, but for the entire community.

Developments must be socially responsible with an enduring social dividend for local communities, rather than the flash Harry and quick buck tactics being peddled by some,” he said.