Court rejects Saaremaa councilor wind-farm planning complaint

Off-shore wind turbines (photo is illustrative).
Off-shore wind turbines (photo is illustrative). Source: Pixabay

A court has rejected a challenge issued by a councilor on the island of Saaremaa and against the state maritime spatial plan relating to the development of off-shore wind-farms.

The first-tier Tallinn administrative court found that the plan was general to the extent hat it could not violate any rights, overruling the complaint, brought by Saaremaa rural municipality councilor Mihkel Undrest (Center).

Court spokesperson Viivika Siplane told ERR that on Monday the court had ordered the return of Undrest's complaint, seeking annulment of Government Order No. 146, which designates wind energy development area two.

The court rejected the claim that the plan was detrimental to the applicant's living environment, taking into account the applicant's residence and properties.

The court ruled that: "The contested national plan sets out the general principles for the construction of wind farms and sets out a number of guidelines to be followed in the construction of such wind farms. However, the contested plan does not specify exactly where and with what parameters the wind farms will be built."

"It is a planning document of such a general nature that the planning solutions provided for therein cannot infringe the subjective rights of any person, including the applicant," the court continued.

"It is not known whether, or which, wind turbines will be erected in the development area No. 2 as defined in the contested plan, in the future."

"This means it is in principle impossible to assess whether future wind turbines for this development area could have any negative impact on the applicant 's rights, including property rights, the right to health protection and a quality living environment," the court went on.

While the applicant's complaints concerning the inadequacy of the environmental impact assessment could in themselves be well founded, the administrative court found, , this does not grant grounds for a complaint for the protection of subjective rights.

Undrest told ERR that he would discuss the situation with his lawyers and then decide on whether or not to appeal Monday's case. However, he said that it would probably be more difficult to make a new complaint at a later date.

"I still want to challenge it now, and not wait for some specific permits to go there. This would surely be harder to accomplish," Undrest said.

The court also found that any future, specific planning decision based on the maritime spatial plans can still be challenged on the grounds, for instance, that it affects health or well-being, and may not be overruled on the more generalized basis of that plan.

Government Order No. 146 of May 12 2022: "Establishing a National Plan for the Estonian Maritime Area and the Adjacent Coastal Area, as well as the Thematic Plan for the Economic Zone" was the order challenged.

Undrest noted that hundreds of families on the Sõrve peninsula, on the southern tip of Saaremaa, will be affected by the plan for the maritime area there and not just he himself.

The court ruling does not enter into force until July 12, before which it can be appealed.

Planning permission has been granted in respect of 100 turbines off the South coast of Saaremaa, while plans are being processed for up to 300 more turbines in the Gulf of Riga, as well as 16 new applications relating to three development zones, from companies Utilitas and Sunly Wind. 

Mihkel Undrest was head of the former Torgu rural municipality council for 16 years. The municipality was located on the Sõrve peninsula itself but, along with the 11 other such municipalities on Saaremaa, was merged into one island municipality in the local government reforms of 2017.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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