Last week, Friday 29th July, I became aware of a renewable energy test site in Galway bay. That’s pretty much on my doorstep. I was chuffed that there’s research going on so close to home and was looking forward to hearing more about an expansion in testing. I soon discovered that people in Clare had not being included in the planing and the closing date for submissions on the proposed extension to and expansion of the test site was within days. There was no way I could figure out what was planned in that timeframe.
So I decided to make some enquires and copied in all of my TDs in the following email:
Access to Information and Participation in plans affecting my environment – Compliance with the Aarhus Convention
I live on the Fanore Road along the Clare coast of Galway Bay. I have been made aware, via social media, that there is an extension, which includes extensive changes effectively comparable to a new application, on a current foreshore license being sought by the Marine Institute. http://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/foreshore/applications/marine-institute-spiddal
I cannot find anyone locally who is aware of this application including the local fishermen who are now concerned about being excluded from the consultation.
Can you please tell me what steps, if any, were taken to include the public on the Clare coast in the information and participation process as are our rights under the Aarhus Convention?
Can you also please detail and send me the steps that were taken to inform and facilitate participation of the people on the Galway coast?
I received the following reply within 3 hours:
Marine Institute – Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site – File ref. FS 006566
Dear Ms O’Donoghue,
I refer to your e-mail of today’s date regarding this application. This application has been the subject of Public and Prescribed Bodies Consultation. The details are set out below.
The first public notices informing the public of the application appeared in the Irish Times on 19/05/2016, Connacht Tribune on 20/05/2016 and in the June 2016 editions of the Marine Times and The Skipper publications. In these notices the public consultation period was stated as twenty one (21) working days (19/05/2016 to 17/06/2016) with a closing date of close of business on 17/06/2016.
An extension of the public consultation period up to 01/07/2016 was granted and notices informing the public of this extension appeared in the Irish Times on 17/06/2016, the Galway Advertiser on 23/06/2016 and the Connacht Tribune on 24/06/2016.
A further extension of the public consultation period up to Tuesday, 02/08/2016 was granted. Public notices informing interested parties appeared in the Irish Times on 28/06/2016, the Galway Advertiser on 30/06/2016, the Connacht Tribune on 01/07/2016 and the July 2016 edition of the Marine Times.
Prescribed Bodies Consultation:
Copies of the application and supporting documentation were circulated to a wide range of Bodies. The fisheries related Bodies consulted were; the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and Bord iascaigh Mhara (BIM). The observations provided by these Bodies and the applicant’s responses to the observations may be viewed on the Department’s website by following the link quoted in your e-mail.
The applicant (Marine Institute) also chose to hold public meetings on 17/06/2016 and 21/07/2016.
Given that my questions had not been adequately. answered I responded with the following:
I would like to know what public meetings were held in Clare. Did you afford the public on the Clare side of Galway bay the same process such as the meetings you have previously outlined?
What Clare newspaper did you advertise in?
Did you use social media in your consultation process?
The consultation process is vital in our successful national energy transition. Unfortunately inadequate effort at the early stages only gives rise to opposition as the projects grow.
It came to light in further emails that there was no interaction with residents in county Clare and no use of social media. I had a lengthy conversation with someone in the foreshore planing office and I’m left wondering how legislation written in the 1930s has not been updated. It’s completely inadequate especially in the context of the Aarhus convention. Foreshore licensing is gift to developers if I understand it correctly. Anyone?
So Tuesday August 2nd, the deadline for submissions, I received the following email:
Consultation on Galway Bay test site extended to Friday 9th September 2016
Dear Testsite Consultee,
The public consultation period for the Marine Institute’s foreshore lease application to upgrade the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site has been extended until Friday 9th September 2016.
The decision by the Minister, Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, to further extend the consultation was announced today, Tuesday 02 August.
A copy of the application, and the relevant maps, plans, reports and drawings are available to download from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government’s website.
Copies of these documents are also available for viewing at Salthill Garda Station, Salthill Public Library, An Spidéal and Comhlacht Forbartha An Spidéal Teo, An Spidéal until 5pm on 9th September 2016.
Public notices advertising the extension to the deadline, and details for lodging submissions, will be placed in this week’s editions of the Irish Times, Connacht Tribune, Galway Advertiser and Galway Independent.
Anyone who wishes to make a submission on the lease applications should do so in writing, giving reasons, no later than 5pm on 9th September (quoting ref: FS 006566), to the Foreshore Unit, Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Newtown Road, Wexford or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All submissions received to date will be considered as part of the assessment process.
If you have already submitted observations and wish to submit further observations in light of the new deadline, all submissions received by Friday 9th September will be considered.
The Marine has held three public meetings to date, and during the extension period will meet with individuals who have concerns or queries that they wish to address before the final deadline for submissions.
Should you have any questions for the Marine Institute on the proposed lease application, or would like to arrange a meeting with the Institute, please contact us at:
Test Site Consultation
c/o Ocean Energy Programme Manager,
Phone: 091 387200
The Testsite Consultation Team.
So I sent the following today in the hope of accessing my right to information and participation:
Dear Testsite Consultation Team
I live on the fanore coast road and would like to know more about this application and project. I understand it will be close to Blackhead, in fishing grounds and pretty substantial visually. Unfortunately there aren’t copies of the documents in Clare, no public information meetings or notices in Clare media planned.
Everything is available online I believe? Unfortunately my capacity for reading plans is limited. I cannot process the data in electronic format and while I can follow them on hard copy I still need to be talked through the content. Effectively I need assistance translating them and answering questions as they arise.
Could you collaborate with interested residents to arrange an information workshops for county Clare communities please? I imagine also that inhabitants of the Aran islands would like to know and understand what’s being proposed.
Let’s see what happens.
Theresa O’Donohoe August 2016