Clare councillors admitted to being “hamstrung” and witnesses to a “horrendous impact of non-consultation” as a result of the ‘outdated’ guidelines.
Citing the “increasingly contentious nature of recent windfarm planning applications” in the county and the nine year wait for an amendment to be made to the Clare wind energy strategy, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) appealed to Clare County Council to get the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to update its wind energy development guidelines.
Additionally, he believed that all Environmental Impact Assessment Reports and Noise Impact Studies should be designed, undertaken and commissioned on behalf of the environment and proximate communities by the local planning authority, instead of by the developers and that the developers would pay the local authorities to undertake these reports.
Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally detailed that a circular letter was released by the Department in December 2013 “advising that local authorities should defer amending development plan policies in relation to wind energy as part of the Development Plan making process. Instead it was advised that local authorities should operate their existing development plan policies and objectives until the review of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006 was complete and new Wind Energy Guidelines issued”.
He added, “The wind energy policies of the County Development Plan will be reviewed as part of the preparation of the new Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028 should the new guidelines be issued within the timeline for preparing the new plan. In respect of your recommendation that Local Authorities carry out expert reports on behalf of private development proposals this is not appropriate as the planning authority must remain independent in carrying out its statutory planning functions”.
Speaking at the December meeting of the Council, Murphy described the inability to update the guidelines as “a failure of national Government for a number of years”. He continued, “We are hamstrung operating as we are under a set of guidelines dating from 2006”. The Kilkee representative flagged the differences in the height of turbines over the past fourteen years. He added, “I did not request expert reports be carried out by Council for developers. It is a fatal flaw, the fox is in charge of the hen house. We have seen the consequences of that policy”.
“It is almost like the wild west with communities and neighbours going through a very stressful period in West Clare,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) stated. He felt there was very little “meaningful consultation” and the impact was “very stressful” for local communities.
Green clean energy is needed in Clare “but not at all costs,” commented Cllr Susan Crawford (GP). She said, “It is really important to have the voices of local communities brought to the Chamber. I am living in West Clare and can see the horrendous impact of non-consultation”. The sole Green Party representative on the Council called for the guidelines to be upgraded and greater independence into environmental reports.
Projects are “being slipped in quickly” due to flaws with consultation, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) told the meeting. Further support was voiced by Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF).
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