Donegal General Election candidate, Gary Doherty (SF), has said that wind farm regulation delays has put lives on hold in Finn Valley.
Cllr Doherty has hit out at the government for what he calls its “failure” to introduce updated planning regulations for all future wind farm developments. He also stated that the delays have resulted in hundreds of communities have had to put their lives on hold while planning authorities determine applications from developers for controversial wind turbine projects.
His comments come on the heels of a recent Parliamentary Question tabled by Sinn Féin to Environment Minsiter, Alan Kelly, in which the Minister was unable to say when the proposed guidelines would be finalised, despite a public consultation into the revisions having ended two years ago.
He said, “In December 2013, Minister Alan Kelly published proposed revisions to the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines which set out changes to the current recommendations on noise levels and set back distancing for wind turbines.
“Following the publication of the draft, a public consultation process was initiated and concluded in February 2014,” he continued. “This was two years ago, and yet when questioned and asked to give a date for when these new guidelines would be finalised before the dissolution of the Dáil, the Minister could not give a time frame and simply stated that it would be completed ‘as soon as possible’. What has the Minister been doing for two years while communities up and down the country, and locally here in the Finn Valley, have had their lives put on hold while they wait for planning authorities to determine applications based on out-dated and inadequate guidelines?”
“A decision on the proposed wind farm development in the Finn Valley was due from An Bord Plaenála back in July last year, however this has been pushed back and a decision has still to be made which has left the entire community in limbo. The fact is that the guidelines as they stand are inadequate and do not afford communities enough protection from large turbines and the associated problems which they cause such as shadow flicker and noise pollution.”
“It is clear that strict statutory regulation, rather than guidelines, is required in the area of wind farms and had the necessary legislation such as that proposed by Sinn Féin been enacted, then we would not be in a situation like we are now whereby communities have had their lives put on hold while planners make a decision on these projects. It is vital that before any more major wind farm projects are allowed to proceed that we have strict regulations regarding set back distances and other issues that are a cause of concern to communities where it is proposed to locate these projects.”
“Sinn Féin has published a comprehensive bill regarding wind farm regulations, which would require a set back distance of ten times the height of the turbines. That is important given that some of the current proposals, like here in the Finn Valley, are for turbines which are higher than the Spire in Dublin. The Government, and in particular the Minister, has sat on their hands in relation to this issue and it would seem that they are deliberately delaying a decision on planning guidelines until after the election.”
He concluded: “I have now written to An Bord Plaenála seeking an update on the status of the current proposals to build up to 49 turbines in the Finn Valley and I am continuing to work closely with the local community who are rightly angry and worried about these plans. Let’s be clear, if Sinn Féin is leading the next Government, we will introduce strict regulations on wind farm developments which will ensure that proper safeguards are in place and that ordinary people do not have their lives turned upside waiting on decisions to be made on controversial wind farm projects.”
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