A revised General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill 2019 has been published, to boost the development of the offshore renewable energy sector.
The legislative changes will bring about major reform of Ireland’s marine spatial and consent planning system, and will modernise and streamline the process for approving maritime infrastructure projects, including offshore renewable energy.
Currently, offshore wind farms need permissions from several different bodies in order to proceed. The legislative agenda outlined in the new bill will rationalise this process.
Green jobs and businesses
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “This Bill is part of the Government’s efforts to prevent climate change, provide cleaner air, and create the green jobs and businesses of the future. Our objective, as we plan for the future, is to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society.”
The revised General Scheme was formerly the Maritime Area and Foreshore Amendment Bill 2013 and is being published on the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government's website.
The Scheme is being led through the Marine Legislation Steering Group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and reflects the policy position agreed by Government in March 2019 to give legislative effect to the development of a coherent marine planning system.
The Government Climate Action Plan, published in June, sets out radical zero carbon targets for 2050.
The bill seeks to establish in law a new marine planning system, which is underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Statement and guided by the National Marine Planning Framework.
It consists of a development management regime from the high-water mark to the outer limit of the State’s continental shelf, administered by An Bord Pleanála and the coastal local authorities.
The new regime will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle – one state consent (Maritime Area Consent) to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment.
'Single consent principle'
The new single consent principle is designed to remove unnecessary duplication and provide greater certainty on the timeframes for decisions on development consent, thereby facilitating delivery of badly-needed public infrastructure.
The changes are seen as critical to harnessing of the potential of offshore renewable energy resources and the transition towards a sustainable, secure and competitive energy system.