I propose to take Questions Nos. 263, 264 and 297 together.
Under the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended (the Act), all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated Regulations, requires planning permission. Section 4 of the Act and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended (the Regulations), set out various exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Any such exemptions are subject to compliance with any general restrictions on exemptions set out in the Act or the Regulations and to the specific conditions set out in each class of exempted development in Schedule 2 of the Regulations.
With regard to exemptions for solar panels, Class 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations provides an exemption for the installation or erection of a solar panel on, or within the curtilage of a house or any buildings within the curtilage of a house, subject to certain siting and size conditions.
Class 56 of Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations provides an exemption for the installation or erection on a business premises or industrial/light industrial building, or any ancillary buildings within the curtilage of such premises or building, of solar panels (thermal collector or photo-voltaic), subject to certain siting and size conditions.
Furthermore, Class 18 of Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations provides an exemption for the installation or erection on an agricultural structure, or within the curtilage of an agricultural holding, of solar panels (thermal collector or photo-voltaic), again subject to a number of conditions.
As part of the Climate Action Plan 2019, my Department is currently undertaking a review of the solar panel exemptions, and is actively engaging with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications as well as other key stakeholders, with a view to finalising a proposal for draft amending Regulations - to reflect, inter alia, technical developments in the sector. One of the key considerations of the review is to ensure that solar panels can be erected - subject to certain siting and size conditions - without the need to obtain planning permission, to facilitate more widespread generation of energy for self-consumption. Also included in this review, which continues to be shaped by recommendations of the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, are solar panel exemptions for educational and community buildings.
The main outstanding issue that remains to be addressed in the current review is the potential for "glint and glare" impacts for aircraft and the need to ensure that they do not result in any real or potential threat to aviation safety. Accordingly, my Department is presently engaging with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications as well as the Irish Aviation Authority, in order to find a safe and workable solution in relation to this particular aspect of the review. The Department has begun the tendering process for this project, which will involve the development of aviation safeguarding maps for each airport/aerodrome in the country, and has received feedback from potential tenderers estimating a timeline of up to 9 months for its completion. As such, these maps, which are a fundamental aspect of any amendments to the exemptions, are expected to be finalised in Q3 2021.As required under planning legislation, any such proposed exempted development regulations must be laid in draft form before the Houses of the Oireachtas and receive a positive resolution from both Houses before they can be made. The draft regulations will also be subject to environmental assessment reporting considerations before being finalised and signed into force. The overall process for revising the solar panel planning exemptions is now expected to be completed by Q4 2021.