I am pleased to bring the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 to the committee today. The amendments I propose relate in large part to the Air Pollution and Waste Management Acts. I will also propose an amendment to the Environmental Protection Agency Act. Some of the amendments are of a technical nature while others are more substantive. I appreciate the work done and time taken by members of the committee to propose additional amendments to the Bill.
The amendments on waste management are largely of a technical nature and I will address them in due course. I do not propose that section 7 will be taken forward, following its consideration in the context of the transposition of the waste framework directive. Our primary focus must be on moving away from excessive dependence on landfill to deal with our waste. Our current approach is unsustainable. We must work to develop alternatives in each of the other tiers of the waste hierarchy. I will bring forward a waste policy later this year which will deal with prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery.
I propose to introduce a number of amendments on Report Stage which I will outline to the committee. The office of the Attorney General has advised that the insertion of a new Part into the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is urgently required to provide essential technical amendments to the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2010. The new Part will make essential technical amendments to the Planning Acts, including the insertion of definitions of "operator" and "quarry". Technical amendments are also required to previously enacted amendments to section 157 and section 160 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which provided that the existing seven-year limitation on taking enforcement action for unauthorised development is removed in the case of quarrying and peat extraction.
Other technical amendments will also be provided for, including a provision to introduce a minimum threshold of 100-bed capacity to health infrastructural developments which should be sent directly to An Bord Pleanála under the strategic infrastructure consent procedure. To avoid doubt, a technical amendment to the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2010 will be made through this Bill to ensure that the judicial review provisions under the Planning Acts are fully compliant with the Aarhus Convention.
Technical amendments to the Planning Acts are also required to reflect the transfer of responsibility for heritage functions from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Other minor technical amendments to the Planning Acts will also be provided, including provisions relating to the environmental impact assessment directive and the birds and habitats directives. I also propose to introduce certain amendments to support authorised officers in carrying out their functions and to ensure effective enforcement.
I propose to introduce further Report Stage amendments which will insert new subsections into the Air Pollution Act. One will provide for an authorised person to be accompanied by a member of the Garda Síochána in cases where it is considered necessary when carrying out his or her functions under the Air Pollution Act. A second will provide for an authorised person to apply to the District Court for the issuing of a warrant authorising the authorised person together with members of the Garda Síochána to enter premises, within one month from the date of issue of the warrant, if necessary by use of reasonable force, if they have reasonable grounds for believing that an inspection is likely to disclose evidence of a contravention of the Air Pollution Act.
I will also make provision in the Bill for the name of An Daingean to be changed to Daingean Uí Chuis in the Irish language and Dingle in the English language and to otherwise amend the provisions of Part 18 of the Local Government Act 2001.
I also plan to introduce a number of amendments on Report Stage to give effect to aspects of the Aarhus Convention. These concern Article 9 of the convention, which deals with access to justice and they must be enacted before Ireland can ratify the convention. These include: a provision limiting the costs of environmental actions in the courts; a change to the requirements in respect of seeking leave for judicial review in planning cases from having a "substantial interest" to a "sufficient interest"; an amendment to the "no award of costs" rule in relevant judicial review cases, which was introduced in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010; and a provision requiring the courts to take judicial notice of the convention. The drafting of these provisions is a complex task but is at an advanced stage. Combined, these measures will significantly enhance access to justice and will allow Ireland to proceed with ratification in the short term.
I intend to introduce an amendment to the Local Government Act 1998 to allow payments from the local government fund to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to be expended on roads and in the area of public transport infrastructure. I look forward to a discussion of the amendments.