Councils warned over blocking wind farm development

Updated / Sunday, 6 Aug 2017 22:38

Councils told decisions must be in line with the national energy policy

The Government has warned local authorities against bringing in unapproved guidelines to obstruct the development of wind farms.

In a letter sent to the heads of all the country's city and county councils last week, Minister for Environment, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has threatened to use his powers to revoke any local plan which he believes improperly blocks wind development.

It follows the move by a number of councils, including Donegal, Laois, Westmeath, Wicklow and others to bring in new guidelines that would diminish the amount of available land to build wind farms.

In the correspondence, seen by RTÉ's This Week, Minister Murphy reminds the councils that they have an obligation to make sure any decisions they take on county development plans has to be in line with national energy policy.

The Government has said it will place a significant reliance on on-shore wind as a means of meeting Ireland's international obligations on sustainable energy and climate change, with the latter signaled as a priority by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after taking office.

The Government is currently reviewing the existing guidelines on wind energy, which date from 2006, and aim to have a new set of rules in place next year.

In the meantime, Mr Murphy said in the planning circular, send on 3 August, that "local authorities should defer amending their existing development plan policies in relation to wind energy and renewable energy ... and should instead operate their existing development plan policies and objectives until the completion of a focussed review of the wind energy development guidelines 2006".

The letter goes on to remind councillors of their "statutory obligations under the planning code in this regard and that in making or varying development plans, they must address renewable energy related policies or objectives when considering the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".

The letter also tells the councils that where local authorities breach their statutory requirements in a manner that fails to reflect national policy, the minister will consider using his powers under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act, in which he direct a Local Authority to amend any provision in their development plan which he feels is incompatible with national policy and statutory guidelines.