Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Seaweed Harvesting Licences
1709. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the status of the monitoring plan under consideration in his Department in respect of an application to harvest seaweed in Bantry Bay; if his attention has been drawn to concerns of local residents about this harvesting plan; if he will meet with representatives of a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54476/17]
1718. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the status of the licensing of mechanical harvesting of seaweed and kelp in Bantry Bay; if he has approved the monitoring plan and associated baseline study; if so, the reason therefore; if he consulted and met with the relevant stakeholders before approving the baseline study; if this is the last remaining step before harvesting begins by the company in question; and if an environmental impact assessment was carried out regarding the proposed licence in question. [54571/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1709 and 1718 together.
The Foreshore licence in this case was approved in principle in 2011 by the then Minister. The legal documents giving effect to the licence were finalised in 2014 by the then Minister. This licence allows for the harvest of specific seaweeds in specific areas of Bantry Bay by mechanical means. In accordance with the conditions attaching to the licence in 2011, prior to the commencement of works, the licensee was required to submit a detailed monitoring plan for approval by my Department. The plan and associated baseline report were approved on 30th November last after taking into account the expert views of members of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee. Further detail of the monitoring plan and report can be found on my Department's website at . The company is now free to commence harvesting under the terms of the licence finalised in 2014.
With regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA), the EIA Directive applies to a wide range of public and private projects. It is a mandatory requirement for project types listed in Annex I of the Directive, e.g. the construction of motorways and airports or the construction of installations for the disposal of hazardous waste. For project types listed in Annex II, it is up to the consenting authority to determine if an EIS is required by carrying out EIA screening based on criteria set out in the Directive. Examples of Annex II projects include intensive fish farming, reclamation of land from the sea, extractive mining, fossil fuel storage or metal processing. An EIA may also be required where the thresholds set out in the Directive are not met (sub-threshold EIA) or where the project or activity is proposed to be carried out in a Natura 2000 site.
If the consenting authority determines that the EIA Directive applies to a project it requires that an applicant must prepare and submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), following which the consent authority would carry out EIA. In the case referred to, the proposed project is not within a Natura 2000 site, it is not of a class set out in Annex I of the Directive nor does it fall into Annex II; therefore, an EIS was not required. I should, however, point out that the Marine Licence Vetting Committee considered all material pertaining to the application and concluded that subject to compliance with specific conditions, the proposed harvesting was not likely to have a significant negative impact on the marine environment. In the case of this licence those conditions included a detailed monitoring report and an associated baseline study.
Representatives of the named group met with officials on 28th November 2017. They have requested a further meeting and I have agreed to meet with a delegation.