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Planning guidelines for windfarms to be reviewed

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A review of planning guidelines is being put together by the Department of the Environment which will take into consideration wider implications of the development of wind farms.

In a Dáil sitting before the Christmas break, Independent TD, Dr. Michael Harty put a parliamentary question to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy asking specifically about “the criteria which limits the proximity of a windfarm to the nearest occupied residence”.

Murphy noted in his reply, “Noise and visual amenity setback distances are the primary criteria in determining the minimum distance between a wind farm and the nearest residences. The current criteria in this regard are set out in the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines. My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Guidelines which, in addition to reviewing the noise and setback distance requirements, is also reviewing other key aspects including shadow flicker, community obligations on developers, community dividend and grid connections”.

As part of the overall review, 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. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

“It is expected that a public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report under the SEA process, will be commenced in early 2019, with the aim of issuing the finalised Guidelines, following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions and views received during the consultation phase, in mid-2019. When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force”, the Minister stated.

Harty in a statement to The Clare Echo said, “The review of planning guidelines for wind farms can’t come a moment too soon. Noise and visual amenity setback distances are not sufficient in determining the criteria which limits the proximity of a wind farm to the nearest occupied residence. I am glad that other considerations including shadow flicker, community obligations on developers, community dividend and grid connections are being assessed in the review which Minister Eoghan Murphy hopes will be completed by the middle of next year.

“In our rush towards “green energy”, we must taken into account that wind farms can have an adverse effect on the quality of life enjoyed by people who live near turbines as well as the visual impact on the Irish landscape. The number of wind farms has grown in Clare in recent years as have the number of complaints on the negative effects on people’s lives. A major wind farm development is planned by Coillte for East Clare. A final decision on this application should only be considered once the Planning Act has been amended in accordance with the new guidelines.”

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