Senator Again Calls for New & Robust Wind Farm Planning Guidelines

Seanad told Local Communities must be Protected from Multi Million Euro Developments

Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, Speaking in the Seanad last night said; “I wish to raise the very significant step change in the technology and development of wind farms throughout the country that is causing considerable anxiety and concern among communities. The entire area and development of wind farms is causing widespread public concern in rural areas, scaring communities and causing large divisions in many areas for which major proposals are being prepared.”

“The 2006 Guidelines which are in place are totally outdated given that the size of wind turbines has increased from and original 50-60metres high to current proposals for turbines of up to 180 metres high.”

“The adequacy of set-back distances from residential homes to safeguard against noise and shadow flicker, in particular is of grave concern to rural communities. Shortly after wind turbines began to be erected close to housing, complaints emerged of adverse effects on health.  Sleep disturbance was the principle complaint. These reports were commonly dismissed as subjective and anecdotal, but there is now a growing body of scientific and medical evidence detaining these issues. In March 2012 the British Medical Journal published a peer – reviewed editorial on Wind Turbine Noise. The editorial is very clear about the health risks and calls for an independent review of existing evidence and guidance on acceptable noise levels. It also calls on Governments to ensure that the public will not suffer harm from the additional ambient noise that results from the inappropriate siting of turbines. This information clearly confirms that there is a large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health.”; Said Ó Domhnaill

“The Government’s of Canada, the UK and Denmark have or are undertaking major policy changes to take effect of the health implications of wind turbines.”

“Indeed, the health impacts are not the only concern as the loss of landscape character and general amenity which forms the cornerstone of the tourism industry in rural Ireland and most especially in areas like Donegal, is a very sensitive issue. The visual impact of these developments in sensitive landscape and environments can seriously undermine the local tourism product. Growth in tourism and tourism related employment is a growth sector, showing positive improvements in the last year.”

“The Minister for Communications has already begun the process of carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment nationally to identify areas suitable for the development of wind projects intended for export. Can the Minister provide detailed information on what criteria is to be used? Who will carry out this survey and at what stage does he propose to instigate public consultation on these proposals?” ; Said Ó Domhnaill

“As things currently stand many rural communities have had to acquire their own independent experts to interpret and evaluate applications in the planning system and as a result of their efforts these developments, many approved planning permission by Local Authorities, have fallen way short when scrutinised by An Bord Pleanala. The level of competency and assessment in these applications is seriously in question particularly in terms of how noise impact is assessed and compliance with European Directives on the environment has not been adhered to. The European Court of Justice has made a number of rulings against Ireland relating to its failure to properly implement Environmental Directives on the Environment Impact Assessment Directive which governs these applications. Rural Communities are entitled to expect that the Government will make provision in planning Guidelines for Wind Farms for their protection, well-being and consideration of societal impact in terms of socio economic, tourism, cohesiveness of communities, and the attractiveness of the areas in which they live. “

“Developments like these have the potential to seriously undermine the substantive basis on which these rural communities survive and prosper. There remains a fundamental absence of transparency governing these developments. There is a total absence of consultation which local residents and communities. Above all there is an absence of a legislative framework to deal with the step change in technology and scale of developments.”

“The Minister must provide for a proper public consultation on these issues and the opportunity for communities to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed in the upcoming changes that the Minister has indicated and what he intends to introduce once his SEA Assessment and his review of the Wind Farm Guidelines is complete.”

“I’m calling on the Minister to introduce a clear suspension on the granting of planning permissions to any new wind farm developments until new and transparent legislation to govern the development of wind farms is introduced.”

In response the Minister for State and the Department of Environment, Jan O Sullivan outlined; “The Construction of wind farms is subject to planning code in the same manner as other developments. Local Authority Development plans are required to achieve a balance in harnessing the wind energy resources of the planning authority’s area in a manner that is consistent with proper planning and sustainable development. Planning Authorities must have regard to my Department’s Wind Energy Development Guidelines, which were published in June 2006.  They provide advice to planning authorities on catering for wind energy through the development plan and development management processes. The guidelines are also intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy development and the treatment of planning applications for such developments.”


“My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Communications and other Stakeholders – is now undertaking a targeted review of the Wind Energy Guidelines 2006 focusing on noise, proximity and shadow flicker. As part of this process,  the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has commissioned a study to examine the significance of noise related to onshore wind farms. It is not the Government’s intention to develop a new legislative framework to govern wind farm developments. The existing Wind Energy Guidelines have served us well and what is intended is a targeted review of aforementioned issues in order to update the Guidelines. In this context given the existing guidelines, it is not necessary nor is it proposed to suspend the granting of planning permissions for wind farm developments.”

“The indicative timetable for the publication of the draft guidelines is Quarter 4  - 2013. The draft guidelines will – like all other new or revised guidelines – go out for extensive public consultation for a period of 6 weeks to 2 months, to allow for publication of the final guidelines in 2014. Once the consultation period is closed, the submissions received on the draft guidelines will be considered and taken into account in the final form of the guidelines.”

In conclusion Senator Ó Domhnaill told the Seanad; “The Ministers insertion that the current guidelines have served the Country well is completely false, given that the guidelines have allowed local authorities including Donegal County Council to introduce a zero set back distance for wind turbines. Technology has changed extensively since the 2006 guidelines were introduced – we need new guidelines in order to keep up. The Government should suspend any new planning approval for such development until proper new procedures surrounding planning for wind farm developments. I also believe that instead of simply introducing new guidelines that a firm and robust legislation framework is required. The Donegal Senator also paid tribute to the GWIG Glenties Wind Farm Information Group for their volunteer efforts in protecting the interest of local residents against the proposed Straboy Wind Farm development project. I will be monitoring the situation closely.”; Concluded Ó Domhnaill

Posted: Oct 2, 2013     |     Categories: Uncategorized