‘A litany of poor planning decisions’: Impatience grows over wind energy guidelines

A number of TDs have called on the government to publish revised wind energy development guidelines as soon as possible.

As AgriLand has regularly reported, there are growing concerns by officials and communities over the amount of wind farm developments that are either underway or proposed around the country.

One of these concerns relates to the suitability of certain areas for such developments in terms of the landscape or proximity to houses and farmland, other concerns involve the size of turbines and the environmental impact assessments.

Sinn Féin TD for Kildare South Patricia Ryan said there needs to be progress on the publishing of revised guidelines, as the public consultation on these finished almost a year ago.

‘Communities living in the shadow’

“It seems like little has been done since,” the deputy said, “we have communities all over the country living in the shadow of impending and current planning applications”.

“This week we have seen an application for five mega turbines submitted to Kildare County Council in the beautiful area of Ummeras, between Monasterevin and Rathangan.

“Turbines of up to 169m high have no place in such a scenic area. We need to have areas in our county development plan designated for wind farms so that [our] beauty spots are not ruined.”

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Peter Burke said that his department is currently undertaking a “focused review” of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines, in line with the “preferred draft approach” announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing and Minister for Environment.

“The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections,” Minister Burke said.

“As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive.”

The minister said that over 500 submissions were received in the consultation last year and they are currently being analysed. He said the aim is to publish revised guidelines “as quickly as possible”.

‘A litany of poor planning decisions’

Donegal TD Thomas Pringle recently raised the issue of the major landslide at Meenbog, Co. Donegal, while he called on the Taoiseach to commit to the finalisation and implementation of wind energy guidelines, and the publication of the Mulcahy report.

He described the event at Meenbog as “just another example in a litany of poor planning decisions that have impacted on Donegal over the years”.

This has eroded people’s faith in the planning system in the county.

“With this in mind, there are two simple actions that your government has control over: the finalisation of the wind energy guideline review that has been ongoing since 2013; and the publication of the Mulcahy report into certain planning matters in Donegal that has been ongoing since 2015.”