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:-
- By post to: Administrative Officer, Planning Section, Wicklow County Council, Station Road, Wicklow Town; or
- Email to: email@example.com
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.