Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Commencement Matters

Wind Energy Guidelines

10:30 am

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. I thank Senator Leyden for raising this issue.

Since May 2016, the Minister has liaised closely with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, having regard to his responsibility for renewable energy policy, on the focused review of the 2006 guidelines. The Minister recognises the need to bring the review to a close in order to give certainty to all stakeholders, local authorities, the energy sector and the wider community.

In light of the commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government to finalise the guidelines and the ongoing policy and legal developments in this area, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is continuing to advance work on the guidelines and related matters in order to bring the various issues to a conclusion as early as possible. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, expects to be in a position to make a statement on the matter in the coming weeks when he will outline the proposed revisions to the guidelines and the timelines for implementation of the various elements.

As part of the overall review, and having regard to a recent European Court of Justice judgment on the Belgian-Wallonian wind energy guidelines, it is proposed to undertake a strategic environmental assessment, SEA, of the proposed revisions to the 2006 guidelines before they come into effect. This is 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. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes that act as frameworks for development consent prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process. In light of the SEA requirement, which will take approximately nine months, it is likely that while the proposals for revisions to the guidelines will be available shortly the guidelines will not be finalised and come into effect until the end of the year. 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 the guidelines issued under section 28 in their assessment of planning applications and in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts.

In the interim, the 2006 guidelines will continue to apply to existing planning applications that are with either the local planning authorities or the board for determination. As mentioned earlier, there has been close engagement between both Ministers and their Departments with a view to advancing the revision of the guidelines to a conclusion. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, recently had a constructive meeting with the Minister, Deputy Naughten, and his officials. Both Ministers will further discuss the matter today. In light of the recent progress made on the matter, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, is confident that he will be able to make an announcement on the final proposed revisions to the guidelines which will be subject to the SEA process in the coming weeks.


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