Noise and visual amenity setback distances are the primary criteria in determining the minimum distance between a wind farm and the nearest residences. The current criteria in this regard are set out in the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines. My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Guidelines which, in addition to reviewing the noise and setback distance requirements, is also reviewing other key aspects including shadow flicker, community obligations on developers, community dividend and grid connections.
As part of the overall review, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive.
SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process. It is expected that a public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report under the SEA process, will be commenced in early 2019, with the aim of issuing the finalised Guidelines, following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions and views received during the consultation phase, in mid-2019.
When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.