My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.
As part of the overall review process, 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.
While the revised draft guidelines had been expected to be published in Quarter 1 2019, some delays to the planned schedule arose, due to the publication of updated World Health Organisation (WHO) noise standards and the need to focus on certain Brexit-related planning issues.
As part of the SEA process, there will shortly be an eight-week public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report. Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process. My Department is aiming to commence the public consultation later this month.
When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. 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.
The current Guidelines, inter alia, offer advice to planning authorities in determining applications for planning permission. However, proposals for wind energy developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Planning Acts, in the same manner as other proposed developments. Therefore, it is not intended to place a moratorium on planning applications for wind farm developments, as referred to, pending the finalisation of the revisions to the 2006 Guidelines.