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Wind action group unhappy with ruling

A decision by Minister Simon Coveney not to limit the location of wind farms in Wicklow has been slammed.

South Wicklow Wind Action Group (SWWAG) said that the decision by Minister Coveney not to impose any limitations on wind farms has caused outrage in local rural communities.

It had been proposed to restrict wind farms in Wicklow to ‘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’ in the new County Development Plan for 20016-2022.

SWWAG believes that ‘by underpinning his decision with the out of date 2006 wind energy guidelines, which a recent European Court judgement determined to be legally flawed and which were described by ministerial colleague Denis Naughten as unfit for purpose, Minister Coveney may have over-reached his powers under the Planning Act. The group intends to explore possible ways of having the decision overturned.’

A spokesperson for SWWAG said: ‘A revision of the 2006 guidelines was promised three years ago but has been delayed time and again because a noise consultant’s report -commissioned almost two years ago- is significantly at odds with existing policy. The report shows that to accommodate the typical wind turbine size (150 to 170 metres) and power rating in future developments an estimated setback distance of 1,200 metres is needed to meet the 40dB absolute noise limit proposed in the draft revision of those guidelines.

‘If implemented this stipulation would bring the entire wind energy industry to an immediate, complete and permanent standstill. Had a Strategic Environmental Assessment for Energy been carried out -as required by EU law- before adopting our Wind-only renewable energy strategy, the dispersed pattern of our rural population would have quickly emerged and we would have discovered that wind was the WRONG renewable option to choose in order to meet our EU targets.’

A spokesman for SWWAG recalled a recent High Court case in which a wind turbine supplier, Enercon 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. He predicted that should planning authorities continue to permit wind farm developments closer to peoples’ homes than recommended in the Noise report we would see many similar cases making their way to the courts.

In order to afford rural dwellers the protection to which they are entitled, SWWAG once again called on the Government to ensure earliest possible implementation of fit for purpose planning guidelines, prepared in accordance with EU and Irish Environmental law and incorporating adequate set-back distance. They also called on a moratorium on all new wind farm planning applications pending the implementation of these guidelines.