I thank the Minister for his reply. He is correct to state there are two directives relating to the Aarhus Convention and that the access directive has been transposed. The directive to which I refer is the public participation directive. As the Minister will know, Ireland is the only EU member state not to have ratified the Aarhus Convention. It has been conceded by the Government that legislation will be required to transpose the public participation directive and that amendments may arise. Furthermore, the European Commission has referred Ireland to the European Court for having failed to transpose the directive to date.
As the Minister knows, three issues arise: the substantial interest, the judicial review and the prohibited costs which arise from the judicial review. Since the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 has come into force, 64 applications have been made to An Bord Pleanála on this matter, with a number of these having been granted. Speaking to the chairperson of An Bord Pleanála last week, I asked him the position with regard to oral hearings, which are a key aspect of public participation. He informed me that the board is granting oral hearings on applications that are proceeded with. However, this is as a gift of An Bord Pleanála, not as a policy position.
The Minister tells us the matter is well advanced and will be dealt with as soon as possible. There was a Green Paper that was well advanced and was supposed to be dealt with in the Chamber two days ago. In what timeframe does the Minister intend to implement the details referred to in his reply? Can he give a specific date when the legislative framework will come before the House? In the absence of the implementation of the public participation directive, does the Minister concede that planning permissions sought under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 may be in legal jeopardy? As I said, 64 applications have been made to date.