16 Feabh 2021, 16.53

The Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage has today launched its Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, identifying several issues and recommendations with the aim of improving this important piece of legislation.

On 2 November 2020, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Mr Darragh O’ Brien TD, submitted the General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill to the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage in accordance with Standing Orders for the purpose of pre-legislative scrutiny.

Committee Chair, Steven Matthews, TD, explained: “The Committee notes the proposed bill is the most significant piece of Irish maritime legislation since the Foreshore Act was enacted in 1933 and, in the context of the National Marine Planning Framework, will fundamentally transform how Ireland manages its marine space.

“In light of this, the Committee is cognisant of the need to preserve and protect Ireland’s marine environment and habitats while allowing for the sustainable planning and fair development and management of the maritime area. The proposed bill can enable Ireland to harness the huge potential in offshore renewable energy, help meet national and European climate targets, and bestow significant benefits on Irish communities.”

The Committee has identified nine key issues and made recommendations across these issues which spanned the following areas; Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Public Participation, Fishing and Aquaculture,  Compliance with European Directives, Educational and Employment Opportunities, Industry Considerations, Community Benefit, Staffing Resources, and Enforcement.

Among the key recommendations as outlined in the report are as follows:

  • The completion of designation, and specification of regulation and management of Marine Protected Areas based on ecosystem requirements, required under Article 13(4) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as the basis for any spatial plan and consents, be provided for in the proposed bill as a precondition to the making of any plan or the granting of any consent under the legislation.
  • Alternatively, the Department prioritise the introduction of separate and complementary legislation to complete the designation, regulation and management of Marine Protected Areas and subsequently that Marine Protected Areas are included in the National Marine Planning Framework and Marine Spatial Plan.
  • The Government implement interim measures to protect areas of the marine environment given the disparity between the introduction of the proposed legislation and the absence of legislation regulating Maritime Protected Areas.
  • All ecosystem requirements of the Maritime Spatial Planning and Marine Strategy Framework Directives, in particular those of species and habitats listed under the EU Birds and Habitats directives, the OSPAR Convention and the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red lists be considered as part of any planning process in the proposed legislation.
  • The bill provide for enhanced public consultation measures surrounding the notification of the public in relation to the adoption of marine protected area designations.
  • The regulation and management of aquaculture be provided for in the bill.
  • Alternatively, that the spatial planning for aquaculture be provided for in the bill, in order to meet the requirements of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive that consent can only be granted in areas that are designated as suitable in the spatial plan, and to provide for overall compatibility and compliance of marine planning and consents.
  • The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage together with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, engage with education institutes and industry bodies with a view to developing and implementing a range of courses and apprenticeships to address potential future skills shortages in the Offshore Renewable Energy sector.
  • The bill be amended to provide for a requirement for developers to meet time-limited specific development milestones, these milestones to be provided for in secondary legislation, for the Maritime Area Consent and for mandatory conditions in consents requiring operations to begin within a certain period post-consent, or agreement of a binding commitment to do so, subject to the possibility of financial penalties for late completion.
  • Consideration be given to the expertise and benefit provided by environmental non-governmental organisations to the decision-making under this legislation and the additional burden and volume of consultation, which is likely to arise, and the need to provide for additional supports to enable them to participate effectively in the environmental decision-making under the legislation
  • Consideration be given to transferring the responsibility for foreshore licensing to the proposed independent enforcement body.
  • Consideration be given to the provision of surety or bonds against the potential costs of cleaning up and/or otherwise remediating or addressing environmental damage in the marine environment.

Chair Matthews concluded:  “The Committee has made these recommendations in the hope that they will assist Minister O’Brien and Department officials to improve this important piece of legislation. I hope that this report will help to inform the legislative process and make a valuable contribution to the forthcoming legislation.”

For more information about the work of the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and to read the finalised report,see ‘Recent Reports’ on the Committee webpage

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Committee membership

Teachtaí

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Fine Gael

Steven Matthews - Cathaoirleach

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Social Democrats

Seanadóirí

Independent

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

Labour Party