Despite the relatively mild Irish Winter so far, a virtual blizzard struck the East coast town of Wicklow last week when the County Council received a huge volume of submissions –believed to be well in excess of one hundred– OBJECTING to the declared intention of Planning Minister Simon Coveney to insist that the Council REMOVE the following provision from the new County Development Plan:
Wind farms shall be at least 1,000m or 10 times the tip height of the proposed turbines from any residential properties or other centres of human habitation with special consideration given to the proximity of such developments to educational establishments.
Existing planning guidelines issued in 2006 and now long overdue for review, do not specify any minimum separation or setback distance from residential property,they merely state that “noise is unlikely to be a significant problem where the distance to any noise-sensitive property is more than 500 metres”. This statement –made without a shred of supporting scientific evidence– has generally determined the minimum setback distance required by Planning Authorities when considering wind farm planning applications.
Since that time extensive scientific research and study (much of it referenced in Appendix below) of the negative health effects of Industrial Wind Turbines has been undertaken, resulting in a wide range of medical opinion recommending that proportionally much greater setback distances be applied now and into the future than previously. The adverse health effects include lack of sleep, irritability, nervous complaints, lack of concentration by children at school, severe problems for autistic children and people suffering with epilepsy.
HIGH COURT CASE
Wicklow Councillors’ awareness of these risks and their own obligation to adopt a precautionary approach are believed to have been significant motivators of the approach they followed when setting the minimum 1,000 metre setback distance in the county development plan.
The wisdom of this approach was recently totally vindicated by the outcome of a long-running High Court case in which wind turbine supplier Enercon Wind Farm Services Ireland Limited admitted liability for causing nuisance to seven Co. Cork families who had to abandon homes UP TO a full 1km from the offending wind farm. Costs have been awarded to the plaintiffs and in April the Court will assess the level of damages to be paid. See report here:
This is the first action of its kind in Ireland and may now leave other wind farm developers, their suppliers and planning authorities open to legal challenges from other families in similar situations.
EXCEPTIONAL RESPONSE LEVEL
While a good response to the Minister’s Draft Direction had been expected, a SWWAG spokesperson described the volume of Observations as quite exceptional, given that such Directions usually arouse little interest and prompt no more than a small handful of submissions. Headed “This level of engagement by so many residents, both of County Wicklow and right across the country, is a clear indication of the awareness by rural communities of the risks to human health and well-being posed by living too close to skyscraper-sized industrial wind turbines” and going on to say that “although it is well documented, the evidence available has been systematically ignored, disregarded and dismissed by wind farm developers, their financial backers, successive government ministers and a variety of departments, public representatives at national level and national and local planning authorities.”
CALL FOR MORATORIUM ON WIND FARM PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Promises by Government over the last four years to update planning guidelines for wind turbines have thus far failed to materialise and amidst mounting evidence of the risks to human health SWWAG once again calls for a Moratorium on ALL Wind Farm Planning Applications pending the issue of “Fit for Purpose” guidelines.
Negative Health Effects of Wind Turbine Noise
Links to Scientific Research Documentation
The following links are to single page summaries of more detailed reports to which links are provided at the bottom of the relevant summary page:
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