Minister concedes to setback and zoning for wind farms in Donegal

In the end Minister Coveney skulked out of the legal hearings which would have tested his powers under section 31 of the Planning and Development Act to overturn the democratically passed variation no. 2 to Donegal County Development Plan, dealing with wind energy development.

Councillor John Campbell who took the legal challenge announced the end of this, his second successful foray in the courts against a Ministerial direction, on twitter, where he also highlighted the extent of the shameful delaying tactics of the Minister and his Department:

What is notable is that when tested neither the Minister nor his Department were able to open any documents or arguments in support of their position in court, they merely used the section 31 process to delay the effective date of the variation passed by Donegal County Council.  This has meant that for 3 years local residents and the receiving environment have been exposed to unnecessary risk and unwarranted expense in order to defend the peaceful enjoyment and amenity of their homes and to ensure that their (and your) environment is not subjected to unsustainable wind farm development.

As a reminder the primary elements of the variation as passed see:

  • the designation of Areas of Fresh Water Pearl Mussel (FWPM) including the catchments identified in the Sub-Basin Management Plans for Clady Eske, Glaskeelin, Leannan, Owencarrow and Owenea (as listed in S.I. 296 of 2009) as not favoured for wind farm development;
  • the inclusion of an objective to ensure that wind energy developments do not adversely impact upon the existing residential amenities of residential properties, and other centres of human habitation (*‘Centre of Human Habitation’ includes schools, hospitals, churches, residential buildings or buildings used for public assembly’); and
  • the establishment of a set back distance of ten times the tip height of proposed turbines from residential properties and other centres of human habitation.

Councillor Campbell had last year successfully obtained an order of the high court quashing a 2014 Ministerial Direction made by then Minister Alan Kelly.  We have blogged extensively on the background to Variation no. 2 (here, here,here), the subsequent section 31 Direction issued by Minister Kelly (here,here), Cllr Campbell’s successful first court challenge; the subsequent report by the Inspector (Hendrik van der Kamp) appointed by Minister Coveney , and the granting of leave to Councillor Campbell for a second court challenge.

In this regard it is important to note that Inspector van der Kamp found in his report that:

  • Donegal County Council did not ignore or take insufficient account of the submissions made by the Minister in May 2014;
  • Variation no. 2 did not significantly impact on the internal coherence of the County Development Plan; and
  • Variation no. 2 did not make the County Development Plan inconsistent with national and regional policies or targets

Furthermore it is also important to note that the Minister and Department were also in possession of the RPS modelling on wind farm planning and yet decided to push through with a direction which failed to protect the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and blocked safe setbacks from homes.

This seemingly irrational behaviour of supporting wind farm development despite the evidence base to the contrary was also mirrored by Mr. Seamus Neely, Donegal County Manager who shocked observers with his submission on the van der Kamp report (see: Neely to DHPLG – S.31 Draft Direction – 1 Sept 2016).  In contacts with us, many have questioned his judgement and future credibility when it comes to wind farm planning, in particular as Donegal County Council is grant aided under the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme to protect the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and have prepared draft guidance on the interaction with wind farm as far back as 2014 (see: fwpm draft windfarm guidance 2014).  Ignoring such strong evidence based guidance to promote the wind industry raises many, many questions.  These are issues we will return to in further blog posts.

For now, congratulations to Councillor Campbell and the many who assisted in the background and foreground, in particular the Glenties Wind Farm Information Group (GWIG) and Mr. Peter Crossan, who together with Councillor Campbell have delivered both evidence based zoning and safe setbacks for the people of Donegal.

For those interested the high court references for the two cases are:

  • Campbell -v- Minister for Housing Planning Community and Local Gov 2016/976 JR; and
  • Campbell -v- Minister for Environment, Community & Local Gov 2014/712 JR.

Irish government modelling of wind energy potential

image-capacity-1

Today, 16 January 2017, almost four years on from the first public call for submissions on the proposed revision of the 2006 wind energy guidelines, we are sharing information in relation to modelling undertaken by the RPS Group, in 2015, which was commissioned by the Sustainable Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for the then Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources (now the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment) and the then Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (now the department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government).

RPS were commissioned to model Ireland’s land area and power generating potential from wind energy developments, taking into account a number of variable factors including:

  • Turbine size, type and hub/tip height;
  • Noise and shadow flicker;
  • Proposed setback distances;
  • Minimum wind speeds;
  • Terrain contours; and
  • Ground factors.

The background to this modelling was the proposed technical revision to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006. As regular readers of this blog will be aware the proposed technical revision has turned into a political hot potato with no Minister yet willing to stand up to the wind industry, despite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment declaring that the current guidelines are ‘not fit for purpose’. The proposed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and further consultation have still not been commenced.

Nevertheless, the discussion in the RPS Group, Report on Wind Turbine Noise Modelling, of 11 May 2015 is startling for most communities, as RPS through consultations with the wind industry expect tip heights of between 150m to 175m to be the norm for future developments, with 200m tip heights being required for some low wind sites.  Possible setback distances emerging from the acoustic modelling are also quiet frightening (see copy of table 3.2 below).

image-set-1
Documents, in PDF, we are sharing are:

Further iterations of the modeling then followed which were also released:

Please note these documents were shared with us by a friend of this blog, who gained access to them under the Access to Environmental Information Regulations.  Access was only granted following a number of Appeals to the Commissioner for Environmental Information; with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, further delaying release for three months despite the Commissioners decision.  We are heartened that the Commissioner in deciding that these documents should be released stated:

In my opinion, it is at least possible that disclosure of the withheld information would help the public to scrutinise the reasons put forward by politicians in delaying this important policy decision.  I therefore accept that this public interest argument would favour disclosure now, before a decision is made.

… if disclosure were to lead to a submission being made to the Department which was of such import that it could not be ignored, such a submission would appear to be highly important and very much in the public interest. There is a strong public interest in making the decision [in relation to the revised guidelines] as soon as possible, but there is also a strong public interest in getting it right.
For these reasons I am not persuaded that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. As that is my conclusion, I must find that refusal to provide access to the withheld information is not justified on this ground.

With the Commissioners words ringing in our ears we are calling on our readers and followers to review, scrutinise and find flaws in the reasons relied upon by your politicians and policy makers.

We are also welcoming guest blogs on this issue and if any of you out there want to provide some much needed technical analysis of these documents and to publish on this blog (or to make a valuable submission to the Minister), please e-mail us at: cawt.donegal@gmail.com.


Donegal wind farm planning details in 2016

ballyshannon-windfarm-and-house2

For the second year in a row the number of wind turbines granted permission in county Donegal (24) was lower than the number refused (52).  This is a continuation of a significant trend for such decisions; with the total number of turbines refused permission in 2016 (52) being just one more than the combined total (51) of refusals for the two prior years 2014 and 2015.

Wind turbine permissions for Donegal, per year

Decision/Year

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Granted

87 67 94 11

24

Refused

5 7 19 32

52

Withdrawn   1 4

 

Detail in relation to wind farm and ancillary development decisions

There were a total of 31 planning determinations, dealing with wind farms and ancillary developments in Donegal concluded during 2016.  Of these applications six were deemed invalid by Donegal County Council.  A total of seven applications were granted for turbines, totalling 24 turbines, and three applications were refused for a total of 52 turbines.  Of the permissions granted two were extensions of duration.

Three windmasts were granted permission (two being retentions).  One section 5 referral and one pre-application consultation were also determined by to An Bord Pleanála during the year.  Further applications determined and granted related to grid connections, substations and amendments to hardstands.  These decisions are most troubling as they clearly demonstrate the prior wind farm permissions and the necessary assessments were significantly flawed by either failing to include or minimising significant elements from the original applications.  Such project splitting and the unwillingness of An Bord Pleanála to adequately reassess applications under Environmental Impact Assessment laws are a growing concern.

One further point to note is that the continued uncertainty in Donegal in relation to the Wind Energy elements of the County Development Plan, in particular the ongoing court action being take by Cllr. John Campbell is adding to growing community and industry anxiety over wind farm planning in the County; with the issue of zoning and safe setbacks from homes to wind farms remaining in legal and planning limbo.

Note: current live applications for wind farms and ancillary developments in Donegal can be found here, and a link to the wind turbine planning permissions for Donegal in 2014, 2015 are here and here.

The featured image was taken by Matt Britton at a wind farm near Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal – see @britpix on twitter.

Table of wind farm and ancillary development decisions in Donegal 2016

Name

Location Turbines Reference no. Type of App. Status

Decision Date

Carrickaduff Windfarm

Planree Ltd

Between Barnes and Killygordon 49

ABP: PA0040

Full PP REFUSED

25 March 2016

Clogheravaddy Wind Farm Ltd

Frosses 7

DCC: 14/51305

ABP: PL05E.244417

Full PP GRANTED

19 February 2016

Clogheravaddy wind Ltd

Binbane Grid Connection

DCC: 16/50440

Full PP INVALID

6 April 2016

Clogheravaddy wind Ltd

Binbane Grid Connection

DCC: 16/50473

ABP: PL05 .246851

Full PP DCC: Refused

ABP: GRANTED

DCC: 8 June 2016

ABP: 24 Nov 2016

Connective Energy Holdings Ltd

Meenagrauv

Ballybofey

1

DCC: 15/51071

Full PP GRANTED

15 May 2016

Corvin Wind Ltd

Bauville, Inishowen Substation

DCC: 16/51540

Full PP GRANTED

1 December 2016

Cufgaze Limited

Drumnahough and Lenalea Wind Farms to Clogher Substation Substation

&

Grid Connection

ABP: VC0097

Pre-App consultation Is not strategic infrastructure

20 October 2016

Cunard Asset Management

Meenhore

Grousehall

2

DCC: 16/50040

Full PP INVALID

21 January 2016

Cunard Asset Management

Meenhore

Grousehall

2

DCC: 16/50209

Full PP INVALID

11 April 2016

Cunard Asset Management

Meenhore

Grousehall

2

DCC: 16/50209

Full PP REFUSED

15 June 2016

Declan Clarke

Kinnegoe Bay 1

DCC: 15/51683

ABP: PL05.246265

Full PP REFUSED

12 July 2016

Derrykillew Community Windfarm Ltd

Derrykillew

Ballyshannon

5

DCC: 14/51400

ABP: PL05E.245108

Full PP GRANTED

18 March 2016

ESB Networks and EirGrid PLC

Donegal 110kv Alter 110kv line

ABP: PL05.VM0010

Full PP GRANTED

11 May 2016

ESB

Sorn Hill Station & Transformer

DCC: 16/50829

Extend Duration GRANTED

21 July 2016

Gineadóir Gaoith Teoranta

Cronalaght Substation

DCC:15/51726

Amend PP GRANTED

25 February 2016

Gineadior Gaoithe Teo.

Gweedore 5

DCC: 16/50989

ABP: PL05.247194

Amend turbines GRANTED

DCC: 18 August 2016

22 December 2016

Glenalla Green Ltd.

Garrymore

Kerrykeel

1

DCC: 16/50297

Extend duration GRANTED

21 April 2016

Karol McElhinney

Aheavagh, Ballybofey 1

DCC: 16/50540

Extend duration GRANTED

16 June 2016

Lettergull Energy Ltd

Raphoe to Listillion Grid connection

DCC: 15/50968

Full PP GRANTED

18 February 2016

Lir Energy Ltd

Gweedore 1

DCC: 16/51532

Full PP INVALID

20 October 2016

Lir Energy Ltd

Gweedore 1

DCC: 16/51486

Full PP INVALID

12 October 2016

Maas Wind Ltd

Maas 11 Hardstands

DCC: 16/50564

ABP: PL05 .246871

Full PP GRANTED

DCC: 10 June 2016

21 December 2016

Planree Ltd

Cornashesk, Killygordon Wind Mast

DCC: 16/50254

Retention GRANTED

21 April 2016

Planree Ltd

Meenbog, Ballybofey Wind Mast

DCC: 16/50348

Retention GRANTED

21 April 2016

Planree Ltd

Ballyarrell Mountain & Lismulladuff, Killygordan 2 met masts

ABP: PL05E.RL3419

s.5 referral Is development

(Not Exempted)

8 February 2016

Planree Ltd

Meenbog, Ballybofey Wind Mast

DCC: 16/50447

Full PP INVALID

7 April 2016

Planree Ltd

Meenbog

Ballybofey

Wind Mast

DCC: 16/50585

Full PP GRANTED

16 June 2016

proVento Ireland PLC

Tullylinn

Pettigoe

4

DCC: 13/51404

ABP: PL05E.245588

Full PP GranTED

30 August 2016


Submission on draft section 31 direction to Wicklow County Council

 

We blogged recently on the draft section 31 direction issued by Minister Coveney to Wicklow County Council, see here.  We have prepared a submission which we sent in today and we have copied it into this blog for your information.  Please note that we have tried to put links to most items referenced and have detailed footnotes appended.

Introduction

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on the Draft Direction issued by Minister Coveney to Wicklow County Council on 7 December 2016.  It is our contention that the position put forward by Minister Coveney, including the statement of reasons, do not adequately explain to a member of the general public why such a direction, in relation to the wind energy elements, is well founded.  In our view the draft direction is merely the action of a Minister trying to impose his own alternative strategy for wind energy on a local authority, and this is being done otherwise than in accordance with the principle of proper planning and sustainable development of the local authority area.

Context: Wind farms and the planning system

A fundamental objective of a planning system is that it has to achieve a balance between the need for a development and the impact on neighbours and the general environment.  Despite claims to the contrary from the wind industry, it is clear that wind farms and ancillary infrastructure development create significant disharmony and discontent in the communities into which they intrude.  Catastrophic failure is growing more common, with 100m plus wind turbines collapsing or throwing blades at frightening regularity.[1]

Noise nuisance reports are very prevalent across the world and this wind farm phenomenon is also emerging in Ireland.  These issues are also moving into the courts.[2]  Further noise complaints, enforcement proceedings, and ongoing noise compliance assessments are also more common.[3]  This should not be surprising as evidence has clearly shown that as wind turbines get larger they have also become noisier (see below figure 11, page 28 of the Marshall Day Acoustics report).[4]mda-turbine-size-graph-2013

Furthermore, it has been accepted by Minister Denis Naughten that current planning guidance in particular the outdated section 28 Wind Energy Guidelines (2006) are not fit for purpose.[5]

Draft Direction to Wicklow Council – 7 December 2016

The reasons offered by the Minister in forming his opinion so as to support his section 31 draft direction, in relation to the wind energy elements, can be summarised as follows:

  • Wicklow County Council has ignored or has not taken sufficient account of the Ministers submission;
  • the Development Plan is not in compliance with legislative requirements in relation to sections 9(6), 10(2)(b), 12(11) and 28(1B)(b) of the Act;
  • the Development Plan is not consistent with relevant guidelines to planning authorities issued by me under Section 28 of the Planning & Development Act, 2000, specifically the Wind Energy Guidelines (2006); and
  • the Development Plan would seriously restrict the potential for wind energy development within County Wicklow.

In terms of the Minister’s submissions made to Wicklow County Council it is clear from the history of the Development Plan process and review of council minutes that these submissions were fully considered and debated, yet rejected in part, by the elected members of Wicklow County Council, therefore this basis put forward by the Minister is indefensible.

In relation to the specious claims that the Development Plan fails to meet the legislative requirements (see requirements in relation to sections 9(6), 10(2)(b), 12(11) and 28(1B)(b) of the Act).  The Wicklow County Development Plan sets out a clear overall strategy for wind farm development in the County (section 10(2)) and is clearly in line with the over-arching requirement to provide for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

With respect to internal consistency and coherence the local Councillors have in so far as practicable been consistent with the plans, policies and strategies of the Minister, in so far as they relate to proper planning of the area (section 9(6)).  Wicklow Councillors must balance potential development with the importance of protecting the amenity of the county’s residents; safe setbacks distances clearly meet such a fundamental policy objective (section 12(11)).

In terms of section 28, as we have seen in Donegal, when objectively reviewed by an Independent third party arguments put forward by the Minister on behalf of his Department fail to be defended.  In his August 2016 report, Inspector Hendrik W van der Kamp in reviewing similar setbacks as proposed by Donegal County Council he noted that “notwithstanding the likely effect of reduction of the amount of wind energy that can be achieved” as a result of such setbacks, he found that “there is no conflict” between section 28 wind farm guidelines and setbacks of ten times wind turbine tip height.[6]

In terms of the fourth element of the Minister’s reasons no evidence is presented by the Minister to support his claim that the wind energy elements including the setbacks would seriously restrict the potential for wind energy development within County Wicklow.  It is our understanding that no accurate modeling of land area or potential for wind energy development, based on the proposed Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022 has been provided by the Minister.  We also understand that national modeling commissioned by the Sustainable Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and undertaken by RPS Consulting in 2015 was fundamentally flawed and misrepresented Not Favoured status’ in development plans as ‘No-go areas’, and assumed a very low 15% delivery rate, for wind projects in land areas other than Flat Peatlands.[7]  Reliance on such data modeling, if this is what the Minister is relying upon is indefensible.

Conclusion

It is clear that Minister Coveney has no evidence base to underpin his reasons for issuing a draft direction in relation to the wind energy elements of the Wicklow County Development Plan.  It is clear that, as happened in Donegal when Cllr. John Campbell successfully challenged the 2014 section 31 direction issued by Minister Alan Kelly, in this instance Minister Coveney has failed to meet the minimum legal threshold to found a draft direction.[8]

Furthermore the Minister has not carried out an SEA or AA for any subsequent section 31 direction and to amend a Development Plan without carrying out such assessments would be otherwise than in accordance with Irish and EU law.

As no assessment or evidence base has been provided by the Minister, any direction would be an obvious attempt in this instance of a Minister trying to impose his own alternative strategy for wind energy on a local authority just because he prefers it – as we have seen in Donegal Inspector Hendrik van der Kamp found no substantive contravention of any mandatory national/regional planning policy, objective or target by providing a setback distance.  Therefore issuing a direction in such circumstances would be contrary to the findings of the Irish high court in Tristor -v- Minister for Environment [2010] IEHC 397.

Should you have any queries in relation to our submission please direct them to cawt.donegal@gmail.com.

______________

Footnotes:

[1] See for example submission of Michael Quinn, 3 February 2014, to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, which provides pictorial evidence of a few such incidents in Donegal, available at http://www.housing.gov.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/PlanningDevelopment/Planning/PublicConsultations/Submissions-WindEnergy/Donegal/FileDownLoad%2C35276%2Cen.docx.  For details on blade, tower and subassembly failures in relation to wind farms see Health & Safety Executive (UK), Study and development of a methodology for the estimation of the risk and harm to persons from wind turbines, (2013).

[2] In respect to Ireland see Shivnen v Enercon and Carrigcannon wind farm 2011/9955 P, where it has been reported that liability for nuisance has been accepted in the case, see “Families forced from homes due to wind farm noise win court case”, Irish Examiner, 11 December 2016, the article further states that the issue of damages will return to the court in early 2017.  See also Norris, William, “Wind farm noise and private nuisance: issues arising in Davis v Tinsley”, Journal of Planning and Environmental Law (2012).

[3] See for example the well publicised examples of Michael and Dorothy Keane, Roscommon, and Phil and Catherine Hickey, Wexford.  See also the ongoing wind farm noise compliance issues with Gibbet Hill wind farm and the reports on hand at Wexford County Council.

[4] Marshall Day Acoustics (MDA), Examination of the significance of noise in relation to onshore wind farms, 23 November 2013, as commissioned by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), available at http://www.seai.ie/Publications/Renewables_Publications_/Wind_Power/Examination-of-the-Significance-of-Noise-in-Relation-to-Onshore-Wind-Farms.pdf.

[5] Minister Denis Naughten in a Dáil Debate on Thursday, 6 October 2016 (Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 923 No. 3) stated: “I am as anxious as anybody else to have these new guidelines put in place as the current guidelines are not fit for purpose.”

[6] van der Kamp, Hendrik W., Independent review of the Draft Ministerial Direction on Variation no. 2 to the Donegal County Development Plan 2012-2018 issued by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to Donegal County Council on 22 July 2014, (August 2016).  See blog post: Donegal windfarm planning rules closer to realization, 30 August 2016, available at https://cawtdonegal.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/donegal-windfarm-planning-rules-closer-to-realisation/.

[7] See email from RPS Consulting to Department of Environment, Community and Local Government officials, (19 June 2015), where a note on constraints on the Setback Modeling Exercise identified inter alia No-Go Areas, and delivery rates for various land types.  A copy of the e-mail is available on request.  It is also important to understand that the Not Favoured status in the Wicklow Wind Energy Strategy is not a blanket ban on applications in areas so identified: Not Favoured means that having regard to the high amenity and heritage value of this area, in particular ‘Natura 2000’ and ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ designations, and the significant number of views and prospects, these areas are generally not considered suitable for wind energy development, such areas are identified for higher scrutiny in terms of their high amenity and heritage value.

[8] See high court reference Campbell -v- Minister for Environment, Community & Local Gov 2014/712 JR, details of the order quashing the 2014 Section 31 Ministerial Direction are available on our blog post Donegal: Ministerial windfarm direction quashed, 22 June 2016, available at https://cawtdonegal.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/donegal-ministerial-windfarm-direction-quashed/.


Irish wind output lows of 2016

2016-wind-low

As 2016 begins to fade into the memory the media will be full of lists of the “highs and lows” from the year.  Each year our blog report of the Irish wind farm output lows for the previous year (see 2014, 2015) is one of the most read posts on our blog, so here are the lows for 2016 (ROI).

As with last year our more traditional media only seem capable of reporting on wind output highs – no doubt the data is churned out of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) PR department, see for example New records set for wind energy generation across Ireland during Christmas 2016, and subsequent copy and paste articles on Irish Times and NewsTalk.

In order to provide a little balance set out below is a table of the lowest wind output recorded, for the Republic of Ireland, in each of the last twelve months.  The lowest recorded being sustained periods with no output at all in February, May and October and the annual record low falling on 16 May 2016 when wind output was at a sustained recorded level of -3MW (all figures were sourced from EirGrid information webpage).

Month Recorded Output Low Date & Time
January 29 19/01/2016 04:15
February 0 11/02/2016 14:00
March 12 22/03/2016 04:15
April 4 19/04/2016 05:15
May -3 16/05/2016 09:00
June 4 08/06/2016 08:15
July 8 22/07/2016 21:15
August 3 14/08/2016 10:15
September 17 19/09/2016 19:00
October -2 20/10/2016 17:15
November 7 02/11/2016 16:00
December 39 14/12/2016 17:30

For some context for readers in relation to the output figures, according to IWEA the island of Ireland has 249 wind farms (215 in ROI) with an installed capacity of 3,301MW (2,659.116MW in ROI).   Demand on the island of Ireland fluctuates between 2,600MW – 6,100MW but reached a high of 6,878MW in December 2010.  It is clear therefore that wind energy outputs of between 0MW – 39MW (ROI) represent a very poor return for the Republic’s 2,659MW installed capacity.

So, the next time you see a pro-wind advert (remember that unlawfully broadcast JFK Power to Power Ourselves advertisement) or read an IWEA inspired “record Irish wind output” story check back to this page and visit EirGrid’s information page to confirm that despite the spin, the energy produced by wind turbines is unpredictable, intermittent and totally dependent on the backup of conventional fossil fuelled power plants such as those fuelled by gas, oil, coal or peat.


Coveney issues Draft s31 Windfarm Direction to Wicklow Council

wicklow-cdp-2016-22-draft-direction

Another County Council, and it’s elected Councillors, has fallen victim of the Minister for windfarms.  This time it is Wicklow who have received a draft direction from Minister Coveney, who is proposing to overturn the elected members decision to insert a setback requirement from windfarms.  The setback from windfarms to residential properties was inserted into the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022 in order to protect constituents from the encroaching threat of inappropriately sited wind turbines. The specific proposal had provided that:

Wind farms shall be at least 1,000m or 10 times the tip height of the proposed turbines from any residential properties or other centres of human habitation with special consideration given to the proximity of such developments to educational establishments.

In the text of the draft direction Minister Coveney, relies heavily on the discredited Wind Energy Guidelines 2006, he states:

The Wicklow County Development Plan 2016 – 2022 is not consistent with relevant guidelines to planning authorities issued by me under Section 28 of the Planning & Development Act, 2000, specifically the Wind Energy Guidelines (2006) … and insufficient grounds have been stated for such departures as required under Section 28(1B)(b) of the Planning & Development Act 2000, as amended.  The plan is therefore in breach of Section 31(1)(c) of the Planning & Development Acts 2000 as amended.

Guidance on wind energy development is provided in the ‘Wind Energy Development Guidelines’ (2006) issued by the DECLG under s.28 of the Planning & Development Act, 2000.  These Guidelines emphasise the need to fulfil Ireland’s national and international commitments to renewable energy and the importance of developing wind energy infrastructure in Ireland in this regard.  Importantly, the guidelines detail (in section 3.4) the strategic aims and objectives that the development plan should include in relation to wind energy development.

These include … objectives to secure the maximum potential from the wind energy resources of the planning authority’s area commensurate with supporting development that is consistent with proper planning and sustainable development … .

The Minister further claims that the Development Plan:

… specifically stipulates a minimum set-back for wind energy development from residential properties, the effect of which would seriously restrict the potential for wind energy development within County Wicklow and is therefore in conflict with other text within the same objective and with national and regional objectives in relation to the development of wind energy infrastructure.

As with all directions that overturn setback distances no evidence is provided by the Minister to support his claims.  As we have previously seen in Donegal when tested by an independent expert (see blog on Hendrik van der Kamp report) such claims of conflict and inconsistency with other national or regional objectives and guidelines are indefensible.

Those of you who wish to support the people of Wicklow should note that, written submissions or observations in respect of the draft direction must be made before 5pm on Thursday 5 January 2017 and shall be taken into consideration by the Minister before he directs the Planning Authority.  Submissions may be made in one of the following ways:-

  1. By post to: Administrative Officer, Planning Section, Wicklow County Council, Station Road, Wicklow Town; or
  2. Email to: planreview@wicklowcoco.ie

There is another option for people in Wicklow; the draft direction could be challenged through the courts.  As readers of this blog will be aware Cllr. John Campbell (Donegal County Council) has already successfully quashed a s31 windfarm direction issued in 2014.  We understand legal options are being considered by individuals and groups in the Wicklow area.

This issue is set to run-and-run in Wicklow, as it will in other counties who seek to protect people from the risks of having a windfarm foisted upon them.  We shall end this blog with words from local Cllr Shay Cullen, speaking to the Bray People, where he urged as many people as possible to make submissions, this (interfering with Local Authority affairs on windfarm planning) is a crucial issue for rural communities in particular.  He went on to state:

Wind turbines are a major issue which could affect an awful lot of people in Wicklow.  A distance was set which was voted for by councillors on two occasions.  I don’t think the Minister should be interfering.  You have noise issues and the shadow flicker effect, while wind turbines also diminish land and houses prices.  There are real concerns over the impact wind turbines have on people’s homes.

 


Cllr Campbell sends Minister’s s31 windfarm direction back to court

It’s groundhog day for windfarm planning in Donegal.  Cllr John Campbell has once again been granted leave by the high court to challenge a section 31 Ministerial Direction issued to Donegal County Council, by Minister Simon Coveney on 6 October 2016, in relation to Variation no. 2 to the Donegal County Development Plan 2012 – 2018 (as varied).

As a reminder the primary elements of the variation as passed would see:

  • the designation of Areas of Fresh Water Pearl Mussel (FWPM) including the catchments identified in the Sub-Basin Management Plans for Clady Eske, Glaskeelin, Leannan, Owencarrow and Owenea (as listed in S.I. 296 of 2009) as not favoured for wind farm development;
  • the inclusion of an objective to ensure that wind energy developments do not adversely impact upon the existing residential amenities of residential properties, and other centres of human habitation (*‘Centre of Human Habitation’ includes schools, hospitals, churches, residential buildings or buildings used for public assembly’); and
  • the establishment of a set back distance of ten times the tip height of proposed turbines from residential properties and other centres of human habitation.

Cllr Campbell had earlier this year successfully obtained an order of the high court quashing a 2014 Ministerial Direction made by then Minister Alan Kelly.  We have blogged extensively on the background to Variation no. 2 (here, here, here), the subsequent section 31 Direction issued by Minister Kelly (here, here), Cllr Campbell’s successful first court challenge and the acceptance by the Inspector (Hendrik van der Kamp) appointed by Minister Coveney that:

  • Donegal County Council did not ignore or take insufficient account of the submissions made by the Minister in May 2014;
  • Variation no. 2 did not significantly impact on the internal coherence of the County Development Plan; and
  • Variation no. 2 did not make the County Development Plan inconsistent with national and regional policies or targets

The other issue to note in relation to this ongoing battle for Donegal’s sovereignty in terms of proper planning and sustainable development of the County is the reliance placed by Minister Coveney, in giving reasons for his direction, on what he accepts is the non-mandatory guidance provided by the s28 wind energy guidelines.  Many planning and legal observers were surprised by Minister Coveney reissuing a section 31 direction to Donegal particularly given that the 2006 Guidelines are accepted by Minister Naughten as being unfit for purpose and that they remain in place without a Strategic Environmental Assessment as required by EU law.

The high court reference for the case is, Campbell -v- Minister for Housing Planning Community and Local 2016/976 JR and it returns for mention on 17 January 2017.


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