Even in a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recovery phase, the binding rights in the Aarhus Convention Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters CANNOT be reduced or curtailed. In advance of the pending application from Coillte to the Co Co, let your local reps know about your right to participate in this process.

Suggested text for your letter to your local reps

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you in relation to the proposed planning application to Carlow County  Council by Coillte for a wind farm development on Croaghaun Mountain at the foot of Mount Leinster comprising  7 X 178m turbines as phase 1 of this development, with the prospect of 7 further turbines outlined in the scoping report.

Coillte have utterly failed to undertake adequate public consultation on this project, notwithstanding the current COVID pandemic.

*  Sept 2018:  six local landowners were approached privately regarding siting of turbines on their lands and negotiations on renumeration.

*  Sept 2019:  Homeowners within a 2km radius only were contacted but no details could be provided on siting, size or number of turbines.

*  Oct 2019:  An invitation only exhibition in the Coillte nursery in Ardattin, Co Carlow was held for householders within the 2km radius despite the existence of perfectly serviceable town halls in Myshall, Kildavin, Bunclody and Borris.  This was not publicised to the wider community.  After the event there was a follow-up email in November 2019, committing  to a series of public information meetings scheduled for the first quarter of 2020, prior to Covid – 19  imposed restrictions. These meetings never took place. 

*  Nov 2019-Nov 2020:   Coillte did not make any attempt to disseminate information to the general public by any means –  no clinics, webinars, postal or flyer drops were organised.  Questions posed by email and telephone from members of the public went unanswered.

*   Nov 30th 2020:  a Coillte wind farm information site about the project, with a virtual tour, went live on their website.  Its existence was not disseminated to the local or wider community.

*  Dec 2020:  a brochure entitled “Croaghaun Windfarm – Final Pre – Planning Information Booklet” was circulated only to people in the 2km zone and to those few who had requested information.

*  8 Dec 2020: a public notice appeared in the Carlow Nationalist indicating that Coillte would be lodging planning permission. This planning was not lodged in Dec 2020.

*  Dec 2020:  As a result of an Uplift campaign by a group of concerned local citizens, 2,000 signatures opposing this development were collected, 99% of the signatories had no prior knowledge of the proposed development before this campaign.  

*  12 Jan 2021: a public notice appeared in the Carlow Nationalist indicating that Coillte would be lodging planning permission.

On 2 September 2020, the Compliance Committee to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) adopted a statement on the application of the Aarhus Convention both during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the subsequent phase of economic recovery. In its statement, the Compliance Committee  makes clear that even in a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recovery phase, the binding rights in the Convention cannot be reduced or curtailed. Rather, if the established practices for ensuring access to information, public participation in decision-making or access to justice in environmental matters cannot be used, any alternative means must fulfil the requirements of the Convention.

The Compliance Committee also reminds the Parties that any shortcoming in ensuring effective access to information, public participation in decision-making or access to justice under the Convention during the COVID-19 pandemic or in the subsequent economic recovery phase may be subject to challenge by members of the public in accordance with the provisions of article 9 of the Convention. Any shortcoming may also be subject to communications, submissions and referrals to the Committee in accordance with decision I/7 of the Meeting of the Parties.

While there is no urgency on this development, if it goes ahead there will be enormous and long lasting implications for the whole Blackstairs region. It is essential that the community have proper public consultation and full access to all relevant information before it goes into the planning stage. Given the imminent availability of a COVID – 19 vaccination, it makes sense to defer this planning application until COVID – 19 restrictions are lifted and full public participation can take place. 

This issue crosses Carlow and Wexford county and electoral boundaries so, therefore, I call on you as an elected representatives of both Carlow and Wexford, to ensure that this planning application is deferred until Coillte can fulfil its obligation to comply with the requirements of the Aarhus Convention, and that I, and others like me, are afforded the opportunity to avail of my democratic and legal right to full public participation and effective access to information  in relation to this proposed development. 

Yours sincerely,

___________________________________________________________________________________

Here are the links to the public representatives in the South East.

Wexford CoCo Enniscorthy Municipal district

Wexford TDs

Carlow Co Co

Carlow /Kilkenny TDs

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