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The Marine Planning and Development Management Bill

Introduction

The Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill has evolved from the Maritime Area and Foreshore Amendment Bill.  On foot of legal advice received from the Attorney General a more comprehensive and holistic approach is being taken to the management of development and activities in the marine space.  A final General Scheme of the Bill was approved by Government in December, 2019.

The MPDM Bill seeks to establish in law a completely new regime for the maritime area which will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle. The new regime will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle i.e. one state consent (Maritime Area Consent) to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment.

The new single consent principle is designed to remove unnecessary duplication and will also play a critical role in the harnessing of the potential of our offshore renewable energy resources and the transition towards a sustainable, secure and competitive energy system and in meeting our climate change goals. The approach outlined in the MPDM Bill is radically different to both the regime under current foreshore legislation and earlier proposals under a draft Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill.

The MPDM Bill incorporates a forward planning model, with decisions to be taken in a manner that secures the objectives of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which provides the spatial and policy context for decisions about the maritime area.

What are the main provisions of the Bill?

The updated scheme comprises of 136 heads in 7 parts.

  • Part 1: Preliminary and General
  • Part 2: Definitions and Interpretation
  • Part 3: Forward Planning
  • Part 4: Maritime Area Consent
  • Part 5: Development Management
  • Part 6: Enforcement
  • Part 7: Amendments to other Legislation

The FAQ document published with the General Scheme provides an overview of the different parts.

How will the proposed regime operate?

The spatial and policy context will be set by the National Marine Planning framework which includes elements such as the Marine Planning Policy Statement, the Marine Spatial Plan, development management guidelines and a common spatial data platform which will provide up to date information and spatial representations of applications and granted consents.  Further information on the NMPF 

Prospective developers will be required to apply to a relevant Minister for a planning interest.  This process assesses the abilities of the developer to complete the project and is intended to act as a gate into the planning process and not a development consent.

Should a planning interest be granted, prospective developers can then proceed to apply for and secure a development consent through the planning permission system within a specific timeframe.

If planning permission is granted, prospective developers can then apply for a Maritime Area Consent which will deal with financial terms and certain contractual matters and obligations.   Any material changes to a particular proposal cannot be made through this process and will have to be assessed within the planning permission system.

How will Offshore Renewable Energy development be managed under the new regime

For the future Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) regime, the MPDM provides flexibility to allow for both a ‘centralised’ and ‘decentralised’ approach to the development of offshore renewable energy projects.  Both of these models are feasible options for Ireland to develop ORE and it is crucial that the MDPM Bill provides for the MCCAE to accept applications for and award Maritime Area Consents under both models.

The decentralised approach closely follows the general process set out in the MPDM with the addition of (1) the identification of Strategic Maritime Area Zones for ORE development in line with the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) prior to the planning interest stage and (2) a competitive process for subsidy support to occur prior to granting a Maritime Area Consent.

Under the centralised approach, zones will also be identified for ORE development however the MCCAE may designate an entity to undertake grid development which may include site selection and securing necessary permissions in relation to the grid connection to facilitate further ORE development by third party developers.

Under both models, it is intended that the MCCAE will establish a competitive process for the award of financial support under Section 39 (2)(b) of the Electricity Regulation to offshore renewable projects. This competitive process takes place in advance of the award of a Maritime Area Consent by the MCCAE .

The policy context that determines whether a centralised or decentralised grid model will be operated in Ireland for ORE, will be influenced by the development of the offshore grid framework followed by the Regulators decision on the Regulatory Framework, as well as the adoption of the NMPF.  Notwithstanding this, given the very different marine areas (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Atlantic Ocean) and policy drivers for ORE development in Ireland it is important to allow the system to adapt and move between the two different models as policy develops and in order to meet climate and RES-E targets.

Please contact ORE@dccae.gov.ie for further information in relation to the proposed ORE regime.

How is the Bill being developed?

The development of the Bill is being led by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government under the auspices of the Marine Legislation Steering Group (MLSG) and in collaboration with a range of other Departments and agencies.  The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment is leading the development of provisions specific to Offshore Renewable Energy.

Where are we now and what are the next steps?

DHPLG, in collaboration with DCCAE and other relevant policy Departments across government have developed the MPDM general Scheme, which was approved by Government on the 17th of December 2019. The primary legislation alone will be insufficient to bring into operation the new regime.  In parallel with development work on the National Marine Planning Framework, such as the statutory guidelines provided for in Part 2 of the Scheme it is intended to continue development work of other elements required including:

  • Regulations to set out in detail various administrative procedures and requirements;
  • Administrative enabling measures (such as agreements between state entities in how they engage with the system);
  • Development of the Maritime Area Consent document;
  • Operational procedures
  • Guidance material for applicants

Further Information

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