Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (218, 219, 220)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he expects to be in a position to protect heritage sites or buildings likely to be affected by new road plans or other developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27680/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Development projects, including roads projects, require consent under the planning and roads legislation and other relevant legislation. An environmental impact assessment is required in the case of major development projects, in accordance with the requirement of EU Directive 85/377/EEC, as amended. The directive requires,inter alia, the preparation, by the proposer of the development, of an environmental impact statement setting out the details of the project and the likely significant effects of the development on the environment. This process allows for adverse effects, including those on built and natural heritage, to be identified at an early stage and necessary changes to be made on foot of recommendations made by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or other consultees. The environmental impact statements must be taken into account by the local planning authorities, An Bord Pleanála and other consenting authorities when they are making decisions on proposed projects.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is a statutory consultee under planning, roads and other legislation in respect of individual planning applications and other specific development projects. It is consulted on the heritage implications of such projects. Recommendations made by the Department on built and natural heritage in this way are taken into account by the consenting authority in the decision-making process. Regulations made in July 2004 transpose into national legislation EU Directive 2001/42/EC, commonly known as the SEA Directive, which relates to the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment. The Department is one of a number of designated authorities which must be consulted by planning authorities at various stages of the SEA process, by reference to my Department's responsibility for the protection of architectural and archaeological heritage and nature conservation. The comments of environmental authorities on draft plans and programmes and associated environmental reports must be taken into account before the plans or programmes are adopted. I refer also to my reply to Questions Nos. 249 and 250 of 30 September 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which a geo-technical or other investigative surveys are carried out on the proposed routes for new motorways with the objective of minimising impact on historic sites with consequent considerable savings to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27681/04]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has ensured the use of modern geo-technical or other scientific methods to ensure the protection of historical or otherwise sensitive sites likely to be affected by new motorway proposals in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27685/04]

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I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 219 together.

Geophysical survey techniques are used, where appropriate, to assess the archaeological potential of the routes of proposed motorways. The use of such methods has increased in recent years and they are now used extensively during the environmental impact assessment stage and also when archaeological investigations are carried out on approved road developments. Geophysical survey techniques are used to assess the subsurface archaeological potential on the routes of proposed motorways. Other survey methods employed include the use of aerial photography, detailed topographic surveys of archaeological sites and field walking by experienced archaeologists. The records of my Department — the sites and monuments record, including the statutory record of monuments and places — and the National Museum are consulted, as are other published sources including early maps. Archaeological test excavations are carried out on the routes of approved road developments to locate sites that are not visible on the surface and to confirm the archaeological nature and extent of sites that may have been located by geophysical surveys.

Geophysical surveys were carried out in County Kildare in the corridor proposed for the M9-M10 proposed road development to inform the selection of the exact route for the motorway. Such surveys were also used on the N7 Naas Road widening and new interchanges scheme to assess the impact on archaeology and to inform the archaeological test excavation programme. The use of ground penetrating radar is being considered on the Athy inner relief scheme to locate certain features.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 25.