Minister responds to ECJ Ruling on Derrybrien Wind Farm

 

Mr. John Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has acknowledged the ECJ ruling on Derrybrien Wind Farm and Retention Planning for developments that would normally require an Environment Impact Statement under the EIA Directive (Click Here).

The Minister stated that officials in his Department were considering the detail of the judgment.

The case has two aspects -

  • the compatibility of retention planning permission with the provisions of the EIA Directive - and
  • the EIA in respect of the wind-farm at Derrybrien, Co Galway, where a landslide took place during the construction phase in 2003.

In relation to the retention permission aspect of the case, the Minister said - “This isssue  is something that has caused me concern since coming into office last summer. At that time, I asked my officials to look at proposals in relation to addressing this. Under Irish law, it is permissible to seek retention planning permission for an unauthorised development - including those developments which would otherwise have been subject to EIA.

"I recognise that this is a potential weakness in the implementation of the EIA Directive. Options for removing or minimising the possibility of retention for unauthorised developments, which would otherwise have been subject to EIA, have been examined by my officials. I will be seeking agreement from Government to bring forward appropriate amending legislation in this area in the next few weeks.”

Minister Gormley also pointed out that he and his officials have been engaging proactively with the Commission in an effort address other potential legal gaps in the transposition of the EIA Directive and has just signed regulations which -

  • removed the exemption for demolition works, where such works - should they be part of a larger development - would have required EIA - and
  • brought certain private roads within the scope of the EIA Directive.

In relation to the windfarm at Derrybrien, the Minister stated - “I am acutely aware of the consequences of this landslide, which caused pollution of the Owendalulleegh river at Derrybrien and the killing of 50,000 fish. It is my understanding that the principal cause of the bog-slip was the adoption by a contractor of an unsafe practice - i.e. the loading of excavated soil in an unsafe area - for which the contractor was subsequently prosecuted and convicted by the District Court.

“I will be examining the ECJ judgement to determine any further measures which may be required to strengthen the legislation in this area” - concluded the Minister.