Written answers

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Wind Energy Guidelines

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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435. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the impacts of geophysical surveys for the Dublin array wind farm on local fishers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21275/21]

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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448. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the granting of investigative foreshore licences has caused very significant disruption and costs for persons working in fishing; the action he will take to address these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21351/21]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 435 and 448 together.

A foreshore licence was granted under section 3 of the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended, to RWE Renewables Ireland Limited in January 2021 for the purpose of undertaking surveys to provide supplementary environmental information to inform the preliminary design for the proposed Dublin Array wind farm and ancillary infrastructure in the vicinity of the Kish and Bray Banks. (Application Reference Number FS007029). Similar licences have been recently granted to Codling and SSE (Braymore point) for site investigation works on the east coast. Full details of the licence applications and the material upon which decisions were based are available to view on my Department's website.

As part of the consideration of these foreshore licence applications, input was sought from a number of expert prescribed bodies such as such as the Marine Institute, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and Inland Fisheries Ireland, among several others. The observations of these bodies were considered as part of the overall assessment of the projects and they informed some of the specific conditions which were attached to the licences granted in these cases. The licence applications were also subjected to a thorough environmental assessment as well as a public interest test which considered the wider implications of allowing the site investigation works on the Foreshore to proceed.

In addition, a public consultation was held on the Foreshore licence applications which gave the public an opportunity to lodge any observations or objections they had to the proposed site investigation works. The submissions received from the public along with the responses to these from the applicants were fully considered in making a decision on the licence applications.

The Programme for Government established a 2030 ambition of 5GW from offshore renewable energy (ORE) sources for the East Coast area, which, at peak production, would be sufficient to meet the State’s current peak electrical demand, significantly contributing to our 2030 target of 70% renewable electricity. My Department is currently in the process of finalising the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which provides a long-term framework for effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources. The NMPF is intended to enable Government to set a clear direction for managing our seas, clarify objectives and priorities, and direct decision makers, users and stakeholders towards more strategic, plan-led and efficient use of marine resources. Under this framework, proposals that assist the State in meeting the Government’s 2030 ORE targets and proposals that maximise the long-term shift from use of fossil fuels to renewable electricity, in line with decarbonisation targets, should be supported.

My Department is acutely aware of the issue of diverse levels and standards of communications between the fisheries and ORE industries, having first been raised by members of the fisheries community at a National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) public consultation meeting in Arklow held on 10 February 2020, which was one of a number of NMPF public consultation events held by the Marine Planning Policy and Legislation (MPPL) team across 2019 and early 2020. To address these concerns, and to promote constructive engagement and consultation between the fisheries community and the ORE industry, my Department intends to commence the formation of a Seafood and ORE working group, with the initial aim of agreeing a communications protocol between these two strategically important Marine sectors. Consultations on the draft terms of reference are ongoing between my Department, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and other relevant public sector bodies. These consultations are expected to be finalised shortly.

While the initial focus of the proposed group will be to formalise a consultation/engagement process between the two industries, it is the intention of my Department, that in the longer term, the Seafood/ORE group address a number of issues that impact fishers, including the impact of developments (including exploration of development sites) dislocation, and co-existence. My Department intends to commence the Seafood/ORE working group before the end of Q2 2021.

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