As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I have a role as a statutory consultee in a variety of legislative contexts which typically govern the making of plans and programmes, the regulation of projects and the associated environmental assessments of these (where required) across the range of development and land use sectors. In any such capacity, I may make submissions or observations to assist the responsible authority in carrying out its functions, including consent functions, in compliance with various legislative and administrative requirements with respect to the conservation, protection and preservation of the natural heritage.
In addition, all public authorities having, or exercising functions, including consent functions, which may have implications for, or effects on, nature conservation must ensure compliance with the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the European Communities (Birds and Natural) Habitats Regulations 2011. In that regard, public authorities are obliged to ensure that they do not undertake or adopt or give consent to any party for any plan or project that may adversely affect the ecological integrity of a European site.
In August 2019, attention was drawn by a member of the public to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department to proposals by the private members club, referred to in the Deputy’s Question, as regards land adjacent to land designated as a special area of conservation and special protected area. My Department reissued notification as to the designation of the area.
The Department made enquires with the relevant local authority regarding the proposal and was informed that the matter was under consideration by the authority.
My Department was subsequently provided by agents, acting on behalf of the private members club, with an ecological statement covering proposed redevelopment works at the private members club. Detailed plans for the proposal were also forwarded, which make reference to protected plants in the area and requirements for licensing.
The Flora (Protection) Order 2015, made under section 21 of the Wildlife Acts, declares certain plants to be protected throughout the State. It is an offence for a person to cut, pick, uproot or otherwise take, purchase, sell or be in possession of any plant, whether whole or part, of a species mentioned in the order or willfully to alter, damage, destroy or interfere with the habitat of such a species, except under licence issued by me, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, for scientific, educational or other such purposes.
I am advised that no such licence application in relation to the proposed redevelopment works has been received to date. I also understand that no application for planning permission has yet been referred to me regarding same.