Offaly becoming "windfarm capital of the country"
The removal of the 2km buffer zone between villages and wind turbines by Offaly County Council has been described by Laois/Offaly Sinn Féin TD, Brian Stanley, as "a major step backwards."
Deputy Stanley, who has claimed that Offaly is fast becoming "the windfarm capital of the country" said that giant turbines on the scale of the ones being built in Offaly "should not be located within 2km of a village or town."
Pointing out that the 2km buffer zone was "an important political statement by local Councillors“ which was contained in the previous Offaly County Development Plan, the local Sinn Féin Deputy said it is "absolute fantasy" for supporters of the change to claim that national guidelines will protect all dwellings equally. "The reality is that the guidelines that are in place at national level are outdated and were designed for a time when turbines were quarter of the size that they are now."
The local Deputy said that some of those proposing the removal of the buffer zone quoted the guidance from the Office of Planning Regulator (OPR). However, he added that its is important for the Council to "take its own position on these matters and maintain some semblance of local democracy. It is the people living in towns and villages in Offaly that will be affected by this, not the senior officials in the office of the Planning Regulator."
"Successive Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael Governments have promised to update these guidelines but have failed miserably to do so and, as a result, they have provided no protection for rural dwellers, particularly in County Offaly" said the Deputy.
Deputy Stanley said he has brought forward legislation a number of times on this and currently has a Bill which he is seeking the support of all parties for. It would allow sensitively located wind turbines while giving a level of protection to local communities. If enacted, it would give local councillors full control over the decisions on where wind turbines are located and would stipulate proper set back distances from dwellings. It would put in place noise limits that are in line with World Health Organisation guidelines and protect against shadow flicker on homes.
"In the absence of any proper guidelines and the removal of the 2km buffer zone in the Offaly County Development Plan, communities in the County have been left at the mercy of wind farm corporations" said Deputy Stanley.