Laois councillors urged to 'stand up to Minister' over wind turbines

A Laois campaign group against windfarms has urged Laois county councillors to continue to "stand up to the Minister" to stop more windfarms being built in the county.

Minister for the Environment Eoghan Murphy has ordered Laois County Council to drop what would be an effective ban on wind farms from the new county development plan.

Councillors had voted to designate all of Laois as unsuitable for wind turbines, and added a 1.5km setback distance. However a Ministerial directive is forcing the local authority to reinstate an older map showing areas in Laois 'open to consideration' for wind, and the setback distance of 500m. More details here.

Areas include a stretch of roadside land between Mountmellick and Killeigh, land near Ballaghmore close to an existing windfarm in Roscrea, and lands near Spink and Killeshin. 

Councillors reacted with disappointment at the monthly meeting yesterday July 31 when they were told by Director of Services for Planning Kieran Kehoe that while their comments will be noted, there is no opportunity to change the plan back.

Wind Aware Ireland chairperson Henry Fingleton wants them to fight on.

"Now is the time for Laois Councillors to stand up for the people of Laois, for our environment and for our beautiful landscape," he said.

"The Councillors who supported this would have known and expected the Minister to take this action. Donegal, Westmeath and other Counties have successful stood up to the Minister to protect citizens from turbine noise and visual intrusion," Mr Fingleton said.

Minister Murphy has told the councillors that their plan would not be consistent with 2006 Wind Energy Guidelines, but Mr Fingleton points out that these are out of date.

"In fact, his colleague Minister Denis Naughten has acknowledged that the current guidelines are out of date and unfit for purpose," he said.

The Minister said "sufficient and evidentially based reasoning" was not demonstrated by the councillors, but Wind Aware Ireland says this is bogus.

"There has never been a 'Cost Benefit Analysis' to justify this wind turbine plan as is legally required under the public spending code. There has never been a Strategic Environmental Assessment as required under the European SEA directive. It is the Minister who does not have a leg to stand on," Henry Fingleton said.

The group also point to a recent High Court case where seven Cork families who abandoned their homes 5 years ago were awarded a significant settlement and costs from wind energy company Enercon Wind farm Services Ireland Limited.

"It is also worth noting that Ireland's entire fleet of 1500 massive wind turbines have reduced our national co2 by a tiny 3 -4 % at a cost of billions," Mr Fingleton added.

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