Wind strategy debated at committee

A GROUP of farmers trying to develop a wind farm at Copenagh Hill, between Graignamanagh and Inistioge, are being prevented from doing so because of the current strategy which is ‘not favourable’, a planning meeting heard.

A GROUP of farmers trying to develop a wind farm at Copenagh Hill, between Graignamanagh and Inistioge, are being prevented from doing so because of the current strategy which is ‘not favourable’, a planning meeting heard.

Senior planner, Denis Malone explained that a review of wind strategy policy was currently been undertaken. He added that he hoped that a draft policy would be completed at the same time as the review of the county development which is due to take place in June. “There are a number of meetings organised for public consultation and the wind strategy will be covered. We hope to present a wind strategy review that will present some of the parameters and constraints around the consideration of wind strategy.”

Mr Malone explained that draft chapters for the county development plan would be put to councillors next February. “There is a lot of consultation involved and we need to consult with all the relevant agencies and the general public.

Cllr Michael O’Brien (Lab) said that a group of farmers at Copenagh Hill to develop a wind farm.”The current strategy is not favourable,” he said. Mr Malone told the meeting that he had advised the group in question not to put forward an application as it would probably be refused. He explained that it was ‘sensitive’ as although it was a ‘high area with more wind’ there were also a lot of tourists who visit Thomastown, Graignamanagh and Inistioge, which he described as one of the most scenic parts of the county.

“We are trying to get the balance right. This area is a big tourist resource and if we allow the farm we would be opening up areas like Woodstock and Mount Juilet. These are strategic issues that you have to look at and questions that you have to be able to answer. The higher up you go the higher the speed but also the more sensitive the landscape. What do you do as councillors, stay away from the golden triangle of Thomastown, Graignamanagh and Inistioge or do you say that because there is wind potential there that you make it the wind capital and tourists can go elsewhere,” he said.

Cllr Sean Treacy (Fianna Fail) explanied that it was ‘in the interests of landowners in one area’ to be allowed to develop wind farms. “If they are going to be barred are they going to be compensated. We need to look at alternatives for people on farming incomes and wind energy is an alternative. The restrictions on them are way too many and I believe that the buffers are excessive in the extreme. We have to be sensitive to tourists but the buffers are way off. They can be tweaked where views can still be protected and you can give people an option of improving their incomes and try to keep people in areas,” he said.

Cllr Fidelis Donherty said in realtion to the farmers at Coppenagh Hill that she was in favour of the proposed development. “In relation to that area I wish for it to happen. There is high wind there and we have to allow for leeway. I think that every opportunity should be given. Where I live I can see a wind farm from my kitchen window and I have never heard a comment passed,” she said. Cllr Maurice Shortall (Lab) added that many small farmers look at wind energy as a potential supplement to their income.

Cllr Pat Dunphy (Fine Gael) said that local feeling should be considered especially in areas where there is ‘huge resistance’ to wind energy. Mr Malone addressed the councillors saying that it was ‘not a question of leeway’. “I am trying to get you to think about the choice you have to make as councillors in formulating this policy. Cllr Treacy raised disadvantaged areas, how do you incorporate this policy while respecting heritage and tourism. That is a difficult choice. That is where I want you too end up where you have thought out the issues so that you end up with a policy that is a robust as it can be,” he added. The wind policy strategy will be further discussed by committee members on June 28.