Written Answers - Planning Issues

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 740 No. 1

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  740.  Deputy Tom Fleming  Information on Tom Fleming  Zoom on Tom Fleming   asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food  Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney   if he will ensure that farmers will not have to go through a long process of having to seek and obtain planning permission and also through the expense of carrying out an environmental impact assessment for land reclamation works, drainage works, ditch removals and so on as proposed by the EU Commission. [22823/11]

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  On Thursday 8 September 2011, I signed into law the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Agriculture) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 456 of 2011) to address the findings of the European Court of Justice against Ireland in the manner that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (85/337/EEC), as amended, was transposed into Irish law.

The Court found that Ireland was over-reliant on size thresholds and did not take other relevant criteria, such as the cumulative impacts of development, the location of the development or activity relative to sensitive sites etc, into account.

The Regulations relate to three categories of projects—

restructuring of rural land holdings,

the use of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture, and

land drainage works on lands used for agriculture

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, as the lead Department in the infringement proceedings, worked closely with my Department to put a legal framework in place to comply with the judgement.

Two sets of Regulations have been introduced to address the judgement. It was considered by both Departments that, with the exception of drainage and reclamation of wetlands, all of the other activities are more appropriate outside of the planning system, and should therefore be regulated by my Department. These elements have therefore been removed from the planning system by exemption under the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2011, introduced by my Ministerial colleague Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and have now been included in my Department’s Regulations.

[433]My Department’s Regulations provide for a screening and consent system that will not only satisfy the requirements of the Directive but will also provide a practical and workable solution for farmers.

Activities under the thresholds set out in the Regulations that do not have an adverse impact on the environment can proceed without having to be screened by my Department. Above these thresholds farmers will have to apply to my Department for screening as to whether the proposed activity should proceed or that it requires an Environmental Impact Assessment to be conducted. There will be no cost involved in the screening application. It will be a relatively straightforward process and each application will be adjudicated upon on a case by case basis in a timely manner, taking into account the relevant criteria outlined in the Directive.

Mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments will only be required for larger projects which are above specific thresholds set out in the Regulations.

The implementation of this practical system provides a workable solution that will minimise the administrative burden on farmers, keep the process, with the exception of drainage and reclamation of wetlands, outside the planning system and also ensure that Ireland should not be open to the imposition of very large daily fines for non-compliance with the European Court of Justice finding.


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