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Minister of State Jan O'Sullivan. Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

New bill will mean just one environmental impact assessment needed for offshore projects

Minister Jan O’Sullivan said the aim of the new bill will be to streamline the process for infrastructure development.

MINISTER OF STATE Jan O’Sullivan has today published the General Scheme of the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill which aims to provide a more streamlined process for on and offshore infrastructure projects.

An Board Bord Pleanála will be the authority in charge of the development consent project for both onshore and offshore elements of strategic infrastructure projects.

The minister’s department said this change will “reduce duplication in the consent process and involve a single Environmental Impact Assessment, thereby also reducing the cost of applications”.

Responsibility for development located in the nearshore area will be assigned to coastal local authorities, apart from developments requiring either Environmental Impact Assessment or Appropriate Assessment, which will fall under the direct remit of the board.

The department said the bill has two overarching aims:

  • To align the foreshore consent system with the planning system; and
  • To provide a coherent mechanism to facilitate and manage development activity in the State’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) beyond the territorial waters/foreshore and on the continental shelf, including in relation to strategic infrastructure projects, such as oil and gas, ports and offshore renewable energy.

Minister O’Sullivan described this as the “most significant reform of the marine consenting architecture in the 80 years since enactment of the Foreshore Act in 1933″.

Drafting of the legislation will be progressed over the coming months and it is intended to publish the actual bill next year.  The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment which will consider the general scheme of the bill in the coming weeks.

“This bill will enable us to better manage our maritime environment in a sustainable manner and deliver economic and environmental benefits,” O’Sullivan said.

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