I can confirm receipt of a copy of the correspondence in question. I wrote to Westmeath County Council on 15 February 2014 giving notification that I am considering issuing a direction pursuant to Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) in relation to minimum setback distances for wind farm developments and other issues contained in the Westmeath County Development Plan 2014-2020. In this regard, I do not consider that the Council took the Wind Energy Development Guidelines and other relevant national policies sufficiently into account in drawing up its County Development Plan. The draft direction is now the subject of a public consultation by Westmeath County Council until 12 March and I await receipt of the Manager’s Report on the matter by 9 April, following which I will make a final decision on the issue of a direction.
My Department is currently conducting a review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines focused specifically on noise (including the issue of setbacks) and shadow flicker. As part of this process, my Department has written to the Department of Health inviting any input that it might have on the public health aspects, if any, of wind farms and preliminary discussions have also taken place.
A public consultation on draft revisions to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines was commenced on 11 December 2013 and my Department received submissions from over 7,000 individuals and organisations by the 21 February 2014 deadline. Following consideration of all the submissions received on the proposed revisions to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines, my Department will consult further with the Department of Health prior to finalising the revised Guidelines. I would expect to issue the final revised guidelines by the end of June 2014 under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, which will require both planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to them in the assessment of planning applications.