It has been confirmed that new planning guidelines for the development of new wind farms will now not be finalised until the end of the year.
The programme for government pledged to update the guidelines within three to six months of its establishment. Late last year it emerged that a recent European Court ruling would delay the proposals development.
However, this week ten months into the Government’s term the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney said it is likely that while the proposals for revisions to the Guidelines will be available shortly, the Guidelines will not be finalised and come into effect until the end of the year.
He said since May 2016, taking account of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, he has been liaising closely with his colleague, Minister Naughten, having regard to his responsibility for renewable energy policy, on the review of the 2006 Guidelines, with a view to bringing the review to a close and providing certainty on the matter to all stakeholders, including local authorities, the energy sector and the wider community.
“I expect to be in a position to make a statement on the matter in the coming weeks, outlining the proposed revisions to the Guidelines and the timelines for implementation of the various elements shortly."
However, he said it was important to mention that as part of the overall review, and having regard to a recent European Court Judgement, it is intended to undertake a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the proposed revisions to the 2006 Guidelines before they come into effect.
In light of the SEA requirement which the Minsiter said will take approximately 9 months, he said the Guidelines will not be finalised and come into effect until the end of the year.
When finalised, Minister Coveney said revised Guidelines will be issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. 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.
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said there is more stress and division than ever in those communities and said they are asking when the Government will “get off its hands and publish the guidelines as promised ten months ago”.
“In my own community in the Finn valley in Donegal, those concerned have already mobilised against and defeated a wind farm application which would have imposed a major wind farm very close to residential premises.
“Now, a second wave of applications is coming in for the same type of proposal and residents are looking to Government to protect individuals.
“Nobody is against renewable energy, development or infrastructure but we are against these farms being imposed on a community against its will in very close proximity to individuals where there are ample other opportunities to site them,” he said.