Bord na Móna’s planned application to erect 28 wind turbines across south Longford will be scrutinised under decade old planning guidelines and not up to date legislation as had been previously thought.
The Leader has learned the earliest government bosses expect to introduce the new guidelines is the first quarter of 2018.
It effectively means that should An Bord Pleanala officials grant permission to semi state’s planned Derryadd windfarm, wind turbines could conceivably be positioned as close as 500 metres away from residential homes.
Bord na Móna, in its original application, have insisted the nearest distance to any privately owned dwelling would, however, be “in excess” of 650 metres.
Not that any of those assurances are expected to sit well with local councillors who, only last month, moved to alter the county’s development plan.
That agreement, on foot of a motion by Cllr Mark Casey, proposed to extend setback distances to 1.6km or ten times the height of wind turbines, had been made with a view to deeming any prospective development rudderless.
However, in a parliamentary question submitted by Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, Housing Minister Simon Coveney admitted any new guidelines will now not be finalised until early 2018.
The delay effectively throws a cloud over the Council agreement and means that should Bord na Móna proceed with their planning application this summer, it will be assessed under the state’s 2006 wind energy guidelines.
Mr Troy, who spoke on the topic at a recent public meeting in Lanesboro, warned of the potential fallout from Mr Coveney’s admission.
“They (government) are acknowledging now that it (guidelines) won’t be brought in until early next year,” he said, adding he had raised the issue “countless times” in the Dail.
“We are more than four years down the road and it’s the same continuous rhetoric which came from the previous government and which now looks like coming from this government.
“Probably the most important line to take out of this is that national legislation supersedes whatever happens at a local level and if an application came in in the morning it (application) would be dealt with under existing legislation.”
Those concerns come hot on the heels of claims made by Environment Minister Denis Naughten over suggestions the new guidelines, when published, would look beyond turbine setback distances and address other measures such as possible wind pollution concerns.