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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.

The Bill seeks to establish in law a new marine planning system, which is underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Statement, guided by the National Marine Planning Framework, 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 Pleanala and the coastal local authorities.   This 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.

Maritime Area Consents (MAC) will be granted by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment for development types within his policy remit e.g. Offshore Renewable Energy.  MACs for all other development will be granted by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.  Development consent responsibility for coastal areas will be generally discharged by the relevant local authority within a newly designated nearshore area. Coastal local authorities will also regulate minor activities, such as beach horse racing, within this new area without the requirement for a State consent.   An Bord Pleanála will be responsible for certain classes of development within the entire Maritime Area and for the generality of development beyond the nearshore. 

Pending the introduction of the National Marine Planning Framework, development and activities, for which the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the appropriate Minister under the Foreshore Act, will continue to be regulated under the Foreshore Act and thus are excluded from the scope of the new consenting regimes under this Bill.  Such activities and development are included within the scope of the National Marine Planning Framework.

Further information in relation to those functions 

What are the main provisions of the Bill?

The general scheme currently comprises 121 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.

A brief overview and explanation of the different parts 

How will the new 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 .

 A Government Decision is expected in Q2 2020 on the offshore grid framework followed by the Regulators decision on the Regulatory Framework to issue in Q3/Q4 2020, as well as the adoption of the Marine Spatial Plan will provide the policy context that determines whether a centralised or decentralised grid model will be operated in Ireland for ORE.  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 next?

  • Government approved the preparation of the revised Scheme in March 2019.
  • DHPLG in collaboration with DCCAE and other marine stakeholders have developed a General Scheme setting out the parameters and provisions of the new regime. 
  • In July 2019 Government approved the drafting of the legal text of the Bill based on the development to that point.  While further development is required in certain areas the main body of the scheme is sufficiently well developed to initiate the drafting process.
  • It is intended to complete that policy development by the end of September with the production of a final iteration of the scheme.
  • Upon the completion of the scheme it is intended to conduct a formal public and stakeholder engagement process to inform the drafting of the legal text.
  • Pre-legislative scrutiny of the revised Bill will also be undertaken.
  • The Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown has set a deadline of Q4 2019 for the publication of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill.

Further Information

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