Ireland’s failure to insist on environmental impact assessments before major development projects are carried out will be scrutinised by the European Court of Justice on Thursday.
The European Commission brought an action against Ireland in May 2006, claiming that the government had failed to comply with its obligations under the 1985 Impact Assessment Directive.
The commission complained that Ireland did not require checks to be carried out before major projects begin, and allows environmental impact assessments to be carried out after work has already started.
It said that the system in Ireland – which allows developers to seek retention permission for unauthorised developments – undermined the preventive objectives of the directive. The commission alleged that ‘‘particular deficiencies’’ in relation to environmental impact assessments for a wind farm at Derrybrien, Co Galway, amounted to ‘‘a manifest breach of the directive’’.
Work began on the 60-megawatt windfarm in July 2003. About 90 per cent of the site roads on the 300-hectare site and half the bases of the 71 wind turbines had been completed when a landslide occurred on October 16, 2003.Thelandslide destroyed trees, fisheries and an empty house, and blocked two roads, but nobody was hurt.
A firm of specialist consultants later found that the landslide was caused by a combination of factors, including construction activity, a zone of weak peat and a natural drainage channel.
Brian Ryan, managing director of ESB subsidiary Hibernian Wind Power, said at the time that the company would implement the consultants’ recommendations before any further construction activity.
‘‘The safety of the public and our staff is paramount. We will continue to liaise closely with the community in Derrybrien and with all statutory bodies,” he said.
The commissions cites other examples of developments in its complaint, including:
* a convention centre development in south Co Dublin,
* a hotel and associated development in Co Kildare,
* five quarry developments in Clonfinlough, Co Offaly; Moycullen, Co Galway; Lismore, Co Waterford; Ennis, Co Clare; and Clontibret, Co Monaghan,
* intensive pig-rearing installations near Lough Sheelin in Co Cavan,
* peat-extraction projects on Mouds Bog, Co Kildare, and
* a wood-processing factory in Co Offaly.
By Kieron Wood
10 February 2008
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