Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (98)

Brian Stanley

Question:

98. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the current guidelines for the installation of wind turbines are sufficiently robust; and his further views that the existing planning process promotes sustainable energy and protects the rights of residents and their communities. [12810/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Wind Energy Development Guidelines (June 2006) provide guidance to planning authorities on catering for wind energy through the development plan process. The guidelines are also intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy development and the treatment of planning applications for such developments.

To ensure that Ireland continues to meet its renewable energy targets and, at the same time, that wind energy does not have negative impacts on local communities, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and other stakeholders, is undertaking a targeted review of certain aspects of the Wind Energy Guidelines 2006.

This focused review will examine the manner in which the Guidelines address key issues of community concern such as noise, proximity and visual amenity and any other potential impacts, as considered appropriate, as well as ways of building community support for wind energy development.

The press notice - issued on 30 January 2013 – marks only the initial stage in that review process. It is essentially a pre-draft consultation intended to inform the preparation of revised draft guidelines. This early consultation allows for the public and other stakeholders to input into the process at an early stage. Other stakeholders that will be consulted include the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

All statutory planning guidelines issue first in draft form for public consultation over a period of a couple of months. Once the consultation period is closed the submissions received on the draft guidelines are considered and taken into account in the final form of the guidelines. The draft guidelines will – like all other new or revised guidelines – go out for extensive public consultation for a period of 6 weeks to 2 months. The indicative timetable for the publication of the draft guidelines is Quarter 4 2013.

Planning legislation provides for extensive public notification of proposed development at the development management stage, including proposed development for wind energy purposes. For example, article 17 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 – 2010 requires an applicant to erect a site notice in order to lodge a valid application for planning permission. Article 19 of the Regulations requires that this notice must be placed in a conspicuous position on or near the main entrance from a public road to the land or structure concerned, so as to be easily visible and legible by persons using the public road. Alternatively, if the land or structure does not adjoin a public road, the site notice should be placed so as to be easily visible and legible by persons outside the land or structure. The site notice must contain the date on which the site notice is erected and state that the planning application may be inspected or purchased at the offices of the planning authority and that a submission or observation in relation to the application may be made to the authority in writing, on payment of the prescribed fee, within the 5 weeks beginning on the date of receipt by the planning authority of the application. The applicant must erect the site notice no sooner than 2 weeks before making the application for permission in order to facilitate third party inspection of the application. Where it appears to a planning authority that any notice does not comply with these requirements, it may require the applicant to give further notice and evidence in relation to compliance with such a requirement.

Article 18 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2006 also provides that a notice be published in a newspaper approved for this purpose. Each planning authority must decide which newspapers should be included on its approved list of newspapers to ensure that the newspapers used for the purpose of such notices have a sufficiently large circulation in its functional area.

In addition the planning authority must, under section 34(3) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, have regard to any observations or submissions received concerning the proposed development in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Any person who makes a submission to the planning authority may appeal the decision of the planning authority to An Bord Pleanála. The Board in some instances, at its own discretion, holds oral hearings in relation to cases being considered by it, further adding to the opportunities to participate in the decision-making process.