Key areas of concern
FAILURE TO DESIGNATE MARINE PROTECTED AREAS - 2021
By 2020, only 2% of our seas had been designated by government as Marine Protected Areas. They had commitment to designate 10% in line with good international practice. In advance of the introduction of this network of MPAs to protect our marine environment, government chose to designate as Relevant Projects for fast-tracking, seven proposed near-shore wind farms on sites selected by developers without any environmental constraints.
NO STRATEGIC PLANNING
Ireland, a small island nation, has no strategic plan for use of its seas - probably our greatest natural resource
DEVELOPER- LED PROJECTS
This policy vacuum has enabled developers to claim large stretches of our coastal zone on a “first come first served” basis, and then apply to the Minister for the Marine for foreshore leases for construction of large-scale offshore wind farms under outdated legislation, drawn up before industrial development at sea was envisaged.
The Foreshore Act 1933 confers authority on the Minister to award foreshore leases for construction in Irish waters at his absolute discretion. There is no statutory involvement of local coastal planning authorities and no public right of appeal to an independent planning appeals board. Irish people have no control over development off their coastlines – a key part of Ireland’s heritage.
Under this outdated legislation and in a planning vacuum, two of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world (520 MW Arklow Bank Wind Park (2002) and 1100MW Codling Wind Park (2005)) were permitted by the Minister for the Marine, 10/12 km off Wicklow on Ireland’s East coast.
INAPPROPRIATE SCALE OF DEVELOPMENT
The size of the permitted developments and their proximity to a scenic coastline are out of line with best international practice. By end 2005, a total of 1620 MW of offshore wind power had been permitted off Wicklow - involving over 400 turbines, up to 150 metres high covering a total area of 123km². This was 60% more than the total amount of offshore wind power - 1000MW - then installed worldwide, raising serious doubts about the rigour of the permitting process. Further large scale development is proposed off Louth, Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford and Cork.
NO CUMULATIVE IMPACT ASSESSMENT.
There has been no independent, professional assessment of the cumulative impact of these large scale offshore wind farms on marine biodiversity, habitats and coastal landscapes of County Wicklow and adjoining counties.
NO COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS
No cost/ benefit analysis (economic, social and environmental) of these unprecedented industrial developments and their required infrastructure on land and sea has been carried out.
The Arklow Bank foreshore lease, awarded in this inappropriate manner in Irish state-owned waters, with no competitive tender, has apparently been sold on to international power companies by the original Irish promoters, at a price based on the size of the development permitted, netting significant profit.
In February 2020, shareholders linked to the original Irish promoters of the Codling project (boom era property development company Treasury Holdings) sold on a stake in the project, reported to be in excess of €100 million, to EDF Renewables, a joint venture between EDF Renewables Group (global renewables business) and EDF Energy (EDF’s UK Generating business).
IRISH PEOPLE LOSE OUT
Most Irish people are unaware of the undemocratic nature of the permitting process, the massive scale of development permitted and proposed or its cumulative impact on the natural beauty of Ireland’s East coast, highly valued by local people and tourists alike.
HERITAGE AT RISK
These developments will change the character and quality of Ireland’s unspoilt coastal landscapes designated for protection in county development plans
Have unknown impacts on vulnerable near-shore habitats, sea birds and marine wildlife, already under threat from human activities and climate change.
Ireland is in contravention of EU Environmental Law on this issue. In particular, it is in breach of the consolidated Environmental Impact Assessment Directive by failing to have in place “access to a review procedure of decisions to grant consent which is fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive”.
In breach of the EU SEA Directive, no Strategic Environmental Assessment to assess cumulative impacts was carried out in advance of permitting large scale industrial development in Wicklow's coastal zone.
Ireland is also lagging seriously behind best European practice with regard to introduction of integrated maritime policies, Integrated Coastal Zone Management, Marine Protected Areas and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to ensure protection of biodiversity and ecosystems and manage sustainable development. The draft NMPF (2019), is the government's first attempt to redress this.