Fianna Fáil TD for Laois and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Seán Fleming, has said that the Government’s approach to the review of the National Wind Energy Guidelines is a total shambles and proves the point that when it comes to tackling climate change, like everything else, Fine Gael is interested only in spin and PR.
Deputy Fleming said, “The Government may talk about climate change and the need for sustainable renewable energy yet the one item under their direct control; i.e. the review of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines has been neglected, representing another example of incompetence by the Government since 2016.
“The Programme for Government accepted the need for a review of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines as the existing 2006 guidelines were no longer fit for purpose. The 2006 guidelines were drawn up in an era when wind turbines were approximately 30 meters high, now most planning applications are for 180-meter-high wind turbines.
“This change in technology has major implications for the environment, noise levels, set back distance from houses and buildings as these technologies were never envisaged by the outdated 2006 guidelines.
“In 2016 the Department commenced the review and around that time the European Court of Justice made it clear that the Government was in breach of a 2001 E.C. Directive and could not complete the review without carrying out a National Strategic Environment Assessment on the issue before the review was to be finalised. I stated in March 2017 that this would delay the process indefinitely.
“More recently the new World Health Organisation guidelines which deals with setback distance and noise have now to be incorporated in the draft guidelines, which obviously is taking further time.
“The Government will eventually publish draft guidelines followed by an 8-week public consultation period. The outcome of this will then be reviewed and the Government cannot give a date as to when the process will be completed. It will be at least the end of 2019 or well into 2020 or possibly longer before we see the finalised guidelines.
“The reality is that the guidelines currently in use by Local Authorities and An Bord Pleanala fly in the face of the European Court of Justice decision in relation to a EU Directive on environmental matters and the WHO guidelines on noise and setback distances.
“The Government has lost confidence in the 2006 guidelines but their 3-year delay in finalising the new guidelines proves incompetence and a lack of a real commitment to tackling climate change by this Government.
“We need these finalised immediately in the interest of the public, the planning process, wind farm operators and our national commitment to renewable energy. The granting of planning permission for such developments under guidelines which are not fit for purpose must not happen as to do so would have a negative impact on the environment”, concluded Deputy Fleming.