Requirement for Protection of Sub Basin Districts.
The European Community Environmental Objectives, Freshwater Pearl Mussel Regulations 2009.
These regulations compliment and support the Environmental Objectives, Surface Water Regulations 2009.
The Regulations were introduced in response to a decision of the European Court of Justice against Ireland and are specifically intended to support the achievement of favourable conservation status for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel.
The six Sub Basin District Management Plans for County Donegal, which were brought into being for the protection of this species as part of the Water Framework Directive, are all identified in Co. Donegal as “at risk” from wind farm development. This is primarily due to the fact that such developments require the removal of large quantities of peat, and storage of peat, in upland areas which are hydrologically linked to these SACs (Sub River Basin Districts).
The requirement to protect these is included in the Habitat's Directive and a number of other Directives are also activated in this instance.
When drawing up their County Development Plan Donegal Co. Council failed to take adequate account of the risks posed to these Sub Basin Districts by wind farm development. They failed to provide adequate assessment on the affects of certain plans and programs on the environment, and the responsibility towards sustainable development, and therefore failed to properly implement the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Directive.
The evidence presented at the Straboy Oral Hearing, into a wind farm planning application there, clearly set out the flawed nature of the current zoning of this area of the Owenea Sub Basin District as open to consideration for wind farming.
Donegal Co. Council have now no discretion in further delaying bringing forward the proposed variation to remove this and other Sub Basin Districts from the Plan's current zoning as open to consideration.
There is a statutory basis under the Act that makes provision for a material variation of the County Development Plan and in failing to address this, an important environmental issue, Donegal Co. Council are continuing to be in defiance of the ruling of the ECJ.
This matter is in no way related to the current review of the Wind Farm Guidelines being undertaken by the department. As a completely separate matter, it is subject to the Freshwater pearl Mussel Regulations 2009 and the Surface Water Regulations 2009.
Additionally, it is interlocked with the Habitat's Directive, the requirements of the SEA Directive and the Water Framework Directive.
Donegal Co. Council must now, being on notice, move to address these concerns, particularly in light of the decision of An Bord Pleanala to overturn Donegal Co. Council’s grant of permission for the Straboy Wind Farm, and given the undisputed evidence which was brought to that hearing (on behalf of the community and presented by leading experts in their field) on how flawed that original decision from Donegal Co. Council was.
The Council is not only ignoring domestic Irish Law, but also European Law and the requirements of the European Court of Justice.