Deputy Pearse Doherty has called on the Minister for Environment, Simon Coveney, to immediately finalise the revised planning guidelines for wind energy developments which, despite a public consultation process into the revisions having concluded over two years ago, have yet to be published.
Deputy Doherty is this week expected to raise the issue with the Minister in the Dáil.
He also stressed the need for consideration to be given by the Minister to the more recent wind energy policy developments from abroad, much of which has recommended that communities be afforded greater protection from the negative effects associated with wind turbines located next to residential areas.
Deputy Doherty said “This week I will once again be raising the issue of the yet to be finalised revisions to the current wind energy development guidelines, which were produced in 2006 and which are now very much redundant.
“As we are all too well aware in this county, there remains a lot of controversy surrounding the existing guidelines used by planning authorities when determining planning applications for wind farms, as many believe that not enough protection is given to rural communities when assessing such proposals.
“And while the previous government did publish draft revised guidelines back in 2013 in which aspects such as noise, shadow flicker and set back distancing were included, these have become out dated and inadequate considering the many developments which have taken place within this area since then such as enhanced research into the effects of turbines on public health.
“And even though we’ve seen growing public opposition to such developments, the revised guidelines have still not been published despite a public consultation process into the proposals having concluded in February 2014 in which thousands of submissions were made to the Department by lobby groups, numerous organisations and from the general public.
“Sinn Féin has made it clear that what is needed in order to properly protect communities from badly planned developments is robust legislation which would set out strict restrictions on where turbines may be built so as not to endanger those living in the vicinity of such developments however, the previous government rejected our calls for this legislation to be enacted.
“The new Programme for Government commits to the finalising of the revised planning guidelines within three to six months however, I will be calling on the Minister to now give a definitive answer as to when the new guidelines will be published and I’ll also be calling on him to ensure that the new rules are informed by international best practice and the growing level of research into wind energy and its impact which has been carried out overseas.
“It’s evident from the many battles which communities in Donegal have had to endure in opposing poorly planned wind farms from going ahead that the time for cheap talk from Government has passed, and that there now needs to be real and decisive action taken to ensure that all communities are protected and that their views are listened to going forward.”