The foreshore applications in question fall within my statutory responsibility as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.
In accordance with the Foreshore Act, as amended, my Department is responsible for regulating the use of the foreshore through a system of leasing and licensing.
The foreshore is defined as the bed and shore below the line of high water of ordinary or medium tides of the sea, and of every tidal river and tidal estuary, and of every channel, creek, and bay of the sea, or of any such river or estuary to the outer foreshore as defined in the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended. The foreshore commences at the high water mark; its outer limit is 12 nautical miles from the baseline referred to in Section 85 of the Sea-Fisheries and Marine Jurisdiction Act 2006.
Foreshore consent can only be granted by my Department, if it is in the public interest. At present, the processing of a foreshore consent application includes the following:
- assessment of the application by the Department’s internal technical advisors, and where necessary, the Marine Licence Vetting Committee which advises on scientific matters;
- consultation with statutory and non-statutory consultees, including relevant Departments and Agencies;
- a period of public consultation, normally 21 working days;
- valuation of the site to be occupied by the applicant;
- other public interest elements that may arise in particular cases; and
- obtaining necessary legal advice in complex legal cases from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and Attorney General’s Office, and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sanction, where appropriate.
In the Autumn, I intend to publish the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill which will further streamline the consent process. When enacted, the Bill will provide that development consent and environmental assessment of offshore projects will be carried out once within the planning system. It will remove the duplication that currently exists whereby environmental assessment of projects is carried out both in the planning and foreshore consent systems, although the Ministerial responsibility under the Foreshore Act for the property conveyancing aspect of transactions will be retained.