A Laois TD has claimed guidelines on the building of wind farms will be delayed indefinitely after it emerged that alternative proposal will have to be tested before being implemented.
Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming made the claim after getting a response raising the status of review with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Covney
Householders and anti-turbine groups have hoped that new guidelines would prevent the building of wind farms near homes. The also hope it will limit the size and scale of farms. Huge turbines have been proposed for Laois.
The Minister said that in light of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to finalise the review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines and on-going policy and legal developments in this area, his Department is continuing to advance work on the proposed revisions to the Guidelines and related matters.
The Minister said this was being done conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, in order to bring the various issues to a conclusion as early as possible. He said he expected to be in a position to make a statement on the matter in the coming weeks, outlining the timelines for implementation of the various elements.
However, he said a review of the revised guidelines would then have carried out.
"As part of the overall review, and with regard to the recent ECJ Judgement in Case C-290/15 on the Belgian/Wallonian wind energy guidelines, it is proposed to undertake a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the proposed revisions to the 2006 Guidelines - in accordance with the requirements of Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of
the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment - before they are finalised," said Minster Coveney.
The Laois TD claimed this amounted to an indefinite delay of new guidelines for county councils around Ireland.
“There are serious issues with the current wind energy guidelines. They simply do not take on board many concerns that local communities have regarding proposals that have been put forward to build wind farms in their localities. The Government promised new guidelines to address these issues but no timeline has been given for their publication," he said.
The TD Minister Covney's reply as alarming.
"The Minister has not said when he will publish the guidelines. Worryingly, he stated that a Strategic Environmental Assessment will have to be undertaken prior to the publication of the new guidelines following a decision of the European Court of Justice.
“This nationwide Strategic Environmental Assessment that has to be undertaken is a colossal task which may take two years or more to complete. It will be even longer before the new wind energy guidelines are published," said Dep Fleming.
The Laois TD said this is a serious situation as the delay in publishing the new guidelines means councils are stuck with the old ones for the foreseeable future.
"Wind farm development proposals will continue to be considered under guidelines which are obsolete and are no longer fit for purpose, especially in view of the height of some of the new turbines which was never contemplated by the original 2006 guidelines.
“We cannot continue to have situations where windfarms are built in close proximity to people’s homes, schools and community centers. Local concerns need to be taken on board when deciding on wind farm planning applications," he said.
Dep Fleming said the public and Government Ministers have lost confidence in the 2006 guidelines. While this resulted in an agreement to replace them, he said Minister Coveney must act.
"It’s shameful that the Minister for Planning is presiding over guidelines in which he himself no longer has confidence in. There should be a moratorium on all planning decision on wind farms until this is sorted out,” he said.