In recent times there have been some decisions made by An Bord Pleanala subsequently quashed in the high court as there was a flaw in the decision making process, i.e. an error in law. In the coming years we are going to see lots of high court cases seeking to quash decisions that granted planning permission for wind farms and indeed late 2014 saw one quashed in Cork. Much of this centres around the inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project carried out by the relevant Planning Authority. Much of the opposition centres around noise and visual impact and generally being a bad neighbour to live close to.
We have being waiting a while now for new wind energy guidelines and I suspect that the delay centres around political pressure to site them as far away as possible from dwellings, say 1km, v's our official energy strategy to build loads of wind turbines. The current guidelines say re distance from dwellings, 500 metres away, or if between 250-500 metres, permission from the owners.
An EIA is required for 5 wind turbines or more, or where the cumulative impacts of a proposal triggers an EIA, e.g. proposed two wind turbines near existing or permitted 3 wind turbines. Typically a wind farm is granted planning permission for 20 years. Inadequate EIA carried out by the Planning Authority are going to largely fall under the following and if proven the high court can quash the decision to grant planning permission:
1. No screening carried out by the Planning Authority to determine whether or not an EIA is required, which is fairly self explanatory and could see the high court quashing a decision.
2. Inadequate EIA failed to properly assess the impact of noise for example on nearby residents. This example where a couple moved out of their home because they could not deal with the noise from a nearby wind farm is what I'm talking about and again the High Court could quash the decision to grant for the wind farm, meaning a big problem for the operator. Turbines whipping up a storm as TDs begin to feel force of 'rural power' - Independent.ie
3. Inadequate EIA failed to properly assess the impact of the necessary and subsequent grid connection (and subsequent planning permission). In England, where similar EIA laws it seems that once the route for the grid connection has been identified and has been subjected to the EIA process, then the courts are happy. Point being, project splitting may see the high court stepping in and quashing a decision by the Planning Authority.
How to assess the unknown | Energy Ireland
4. Inadequate EIA failed to properly assess a project as the information provided was not adequately challenged, i.e. we'll take the consultants word for it. This would happen where the Planning Authority did not have the necessary expertise to carry out a proper assessment and again high court can quash decisions.
Therefore I would expect that where a permitted or existing wind farm is challenged on these grounds that the wind farm may be in trouble. Where the high court quashes the original decision there is no guarantee that any subsequent permission would be granted to rectify the matter. I therefore predict that we're going to see in the coming years, wind farms shutting down across the country which will be greeted with joy by its own opponents and give the government a huge headache as they puts all their eggs in in the wind farm basket, not to mention the losses incurred by the operators/investors of the wind farms. Thoughts?