Tomorrow is D-Day for wind farm planning in Co Donegal.
Donegal County Council will convene a special council meeting of elected members at to consider and vote on Variation No.2 to the County Development Plan.
The variation proposes a ten times turbine height set back distance from homes.
At present there is no distance specified in the county development plan.
The variation also proposes that Donegal County Council afford greater protection to the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel by de-zoning the river catchments
A third part of the variation proposes changes that will lessen the protection afforded to Glenveagh National Park.
As part of this process an unprecedented 3,326 submissions were received in response to the public consultation on the variations.
The Glenties Windfarm Information Group (GWiG) has asked councillors should bear in mind certain points when voting.
Firstly, out of the submissions received by Donegal County Council as a result of the Public Consultation on this variation, 98.3% of respondents stated that they approved of:
1. The proposed 10 times turbine height set back distance and
2. The de-zoning of the six river sub basin catchment areas
They disapproved of the proposed change to protections afforded to Glenveagh National Park.
From reading the remaining submissions, 1.7%, the GWiG claim this small percentage is made up of people with vested interests in wind farming.
“The Chief Executive Officer’s Report on the variation that was distributed to councillors discounts the vast majority of submissions – greater than 98% of the 3,326 – who support the proposals to grant greater protection to residential amenity by the establishment of a ten times turbine height setback from homes and centres of human habitation. His report also fails to accept that the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel (FWPM) sub-basin catchment areas protected in Irish and EU law should be designated as not favoured for wind farm development. Again this proposal has the support of more than 98% of submissions received.
“It should be noted that what is being proposed in the variation is not a ban on windfarm development as is described in CEO’s report. The intention of the zoning in the six identified river catchments as ‘not favoured’ is intended to be interpreted as requiring a higher level of scrutiny for applications which may be made in these areas. It does not exclude development but it sets the onus of proof on the developer at a higher level, to prove there will be no negative impact.
“As regards the setbacks, the CEO’s report indicates that the current status quo should be retained. It should be understood by the Councillor’s that there is currently no setback distance from homes, places of habitation etc, identified or provided for in the current Plan.
It is also noteworthy that Donegal County Council themselves in their submission to the Department’s National Review of the Wind Energy Guidelines in January recommended that ten times the turbine tip height should be provided as a separation distance.
“The CEO’s report and his recommendation are in conflict with the wishes of the elected members of Donegal County Council as this (ten times separation distance) is exactly what is proposed in the Variation that councillors will be asked to vote on. The need for this is brought sharply into focus by several major turbine accidents in the County in recent years, e.g. in Loughderryduff outside Ardara, Corkermore outside Ardara and in the Blue Stacks near Drimarone.
“The people of Donegal have spoken like they have never spoken before during a public consultation process. They want protection for their families, their homes and their communities.
“The ten times tip height and the six river basin parts of the variation provide some of that protection. These two parts will merely put a brake on the wind farm speculators who are currently creating another property type bubble/burst for their private gain.”
GWIG states that these are important points that all councillors should bear in mind when voting on the three separate parts of the variation.
* The submissions received during the Public Consultation reflect the wishes of the people of this County.
* The County Development Plan is commonly referred to as, ‘The People’s Plan’.
* Councillors are the people’s elected representatives.
“Will their vote reflect the people’s wishes?” asked a spokesman.