A TD who represents voters in Laois Offaly Kildare has demanded the publishing of new windfarm guidelines in the wake of continued lack of timeframe for updated rules which will not apply to 'mega turbines' coming down the track.
Patricia Ryan is Sinn Féin TD for Kildare South, which takes in Portarlington and hinterland. She issued a statement calling on the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to publish revised wind energy development guidelines as soon as possible.
Dep Ryan has raised the issue and published guidelines in the Dáil with her party colleague and Laois Offaly Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley. They want 14 years old guidelines replaced but have been told that there is still now timeframe despite the fact that a review designed to produce them has been going on for three years.
“I asked the Minister a Parliamentary Question back in September and this week I have asked a similar question and I have received a similar answer. We need to see progress on this, the public consultation finished almost a year ago and it seems like little has been done since. We have communities all over the country living in the shadow of impending and current planning applications,” she said.
Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Peter Burke confirmed that the existing guidelines date to 2006 and a preferred draft approach which was announced in June 2017. A review committed to would, he said, examine noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections. He said a 10 week consultation began in December 2019.
"The consultation closed on 19 February 2020. Almost 500 submissions were received as part of the public consultation, many of which are extremely detailed and technical in nature. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), is currently analysing the submissions received," said Minister Burke.
He could not give a timeline for the finalisation of guidelines. Dep Ryan was not satisfied with the delay.
“It should not take this long to publish the guidelines. This week we have seen an application for five mega turbines submitted to Kildare County Council in the beautiful area of Umeras, between Monasterevin and Rathangan. Turbines of up to 169 metres high have no place in such a scenic area. The Barrow Blueway is close by, and a feasibility study is currently being carried out for Umeras Peatland Park. We need to have areas in our County Development Plan designated for wind farms so that are beauty spots are not ruined.
“My Sinn Féin colleague, Deputy Brian Stanley, brought a Bill to the Dáil last November which sets out rules for wind farms. The Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2020 will ensure safe setback distances. We are proposing a minimum distance of ten times the height of the turbine to the tip of the blade. Noise levels will be within the WHO limits and shadow flicker from a propeller will not be permitted to pass over a house. In line with practices across Europe, our Bill provides local communities within 4km the opportunity to buy shares in the project and to receive a dividend.”
“It is unfair to residents of places like Umeras that updated guidelines has not been published,” she concluded.