Ireland's out-dated wind guidelines are causing massive upset among communities across the country, as wind companies take advantage of generous subsidies by planning large developments close to family homes. Some companies are project splitting, creating numerous subsidiaries and applying for separate mini-developments across a large area, thus masking the true scale of their overall plans. Each planning application must be fought in the courts at an estimated cost of €100,000 for one High Court injunction.
Even if an injunction is granted by the High Court the company often re-applies, sometimes increasing the scale of the proposed wind farm. This has happened in the case of Cleanrath Wind Farm, which was successfully halted in the High Court last year by local residents Hanna Heubach and Klaus Balz. Cleanrath have since re-applied for a larger wind farm than their original proposal entailed. Local environmentalist Kevin Corcoran said many of the proposed developments for this area are in sensitive locations. Some overlook the Toon valley which feeds the Gearagh, a Special Area of Conservation. They threaten the river systems with disturbance from unstable upland bogs. He has taken a petition to Europe against the company for project-splitting.
Meanwhile, residents must fight each and every case or it's all for nothing. Planning authorities have been accused of constantly favouring the wind companies, despite growing evidence of health impacts from turbines located too close to people's homes. For example, another west Cork development was turned down by Cork's county planners. In the words of the County planners, the proposal failed, given the “relative close proximity to numerous dwellinghouses within 1km of the proposed turbines, the excessive height of the turbines coupled with incongruous siting, it is considered that the proposed wind farm development would be excessively domineering from very many vantage points over a wide area...” Their decision was over-ruled by An Bord Pleannala who granted permission based on the national energy plan.
Ireland's guidelines are out of date, as reported by That's Farming and the whole area is mired in acrimony. Where one set of landowners are benefiting from generous rental agreements, neighbours are left fighting desperate cases in the courts. Clearly the wind strategy being followed at present is chaotic and divisive and in dire need of clarity. Regulations governing wind developments must be brought forward as soon as possible so that people living in rural Ireland can get on with their lives, without the worry and anxiety of poorly placed industrial wind farms.