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Renewable Energy Generation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 26 July 2022

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Ceisteanna (609, 830, 831, 832)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

609. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the planning process for large scale solar farms. [41841/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

830. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the planning permission that is required for schools to install solar panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41794/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

831. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the planning permission, if any, that is required for older homes to install solar panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41795/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

832. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will introduce a planning fee exemption for schools, community buildings and sports clubs seeking to install solar panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41796/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 609 and 830 to 832, inclusive, 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. Included in the planning exemptions set out in the Regulations are those applying to the installation of solar infrastructure on a variety of building types, including houses, businesses, industrial and agricultural to which specific conditions are attached. There is currently no planning exemption in place regarding the installation of solar infrastructure on schools.

The solar planning exemptions set out in the Regulations apply primarily to the installation of rooftop solar development and, as such, do not apply to solar farms. Proposals for individual solar farm developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Act in the same manner as other proposed developments, with planning applications made to the relevant local planning authority and with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

My Department, in the context of the Climate Action Plan and in consultation with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, has undertaken a review of the solar panel planning exemptions set out in the Regulations, with a particular focus on facilitating increased self-generation of electricity. This review is now complete. Substantial changes to the current planning exemption thresholds for solar panels are proposed, including those relating to the installation of solar panels on the roofs of houses, as well as the introduction of new classes of solar panel planning exemptions for apartments and educational/community/sports buildings.

The draft regulations have been reviewed under the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive and it has been determined that they are likely to have significant effects on the environment, necessitating the undertaking of a full SEA on the draft proposals. The draft regulations have also been screened for Appropriate Assessment (AA) under the Habitats Directive by my Department’s Ecological Assessment Unit (EAU) and the need for AA has been screened out.

A public consultation on the draft solar regulations as part of the SEA process ran from 15 June 2022 to 13 July 2022. My Department is currently reviewing written submissions and observations received as part of the public consultation, which will be taken into consideration before the finalisation of the draft regulations.

As required under planning legislation, the 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 and the SEA process concluded. Accordingly, the process for finalising the solar panel planning exemptions will be completed in the coming months.

While these regulations are being advanced, my Department is concurrently examining the scope to draft supplementary regulations to further expand the exemptions by way of reducing the proposed solar safeguarding zones around airports.

Following the introduction of the proposed exempted development regulations in respect of solar panels, and subject to compliance with the conditions associated with the relevant proposed exemption, there will be no need to seek planning permission for the installation of a range of solar infrastructure on schools, community and sports facilities. Accordingly, no planning permission fees will apply in this regard.

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