The statutory competent authorities with legal authority to make statutory determinations under EU Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the Habitats Directive) and EU Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (the Birds Directive) are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, whom I understand has provided this information to the Deputy in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 771 of 25 June 2019.
Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment as amended by Directive 2014/52/EU (the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive), states that a competent authority is the authority or authorities designated by the relevant Member State as responsible for performing duties arising from the EIA Directive. There are numerous consent systems in Ireland which incorporate EIA and which are governed by separate pieces of legislation that are the responsibility of different Departments. In each such piece of legislation, the competent authority is identified as the body responsible for examining the Environmental Impact Assessment Report prepared and for carrying out the EIA. The competent authority then makes its decision on whether to give development consent for the project, having regard to its assessment.
For example, the competent authority in respect of land use planning, pursuant to the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, is the relevant planning authority, or An Bord Pleanála as the case may be, while the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is the competent authority in respect of consents under the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended. In effect, the responsibility as competent authority is appropriately assigned to a specified authority in the context of each relevant consent system.
As regards EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive), the Directive has been transposed into Irish law by two sets of statutory instruments: the European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations 2004, as amended, and the Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Regulations 2004, as amended.
The former Regulations do not identify specific authorities as competent authorities, but rather specify that “competent authority” means the authority which is, or the authorities which are jointly, responsible for the preparation of a plan or programme, or modification to a plan or programme pursuant to the Regulations.
The latter Regulations designate planning authorities as the competent authority for the preparation or variation of a statutory development plan or the preparation of a local area plan, and regional authorities are designated as competent authorities for the preparation of regional planning guidelines, where environmental assessment of the plan is required, in accordance with the requirements of the Regulations.