Written answers

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Wind Energy Generation

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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387. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the protections that are in place in the planning process for offshore wind installations to protect the interests of local fishers; if he intends strengthening these protections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23477/22]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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My Department has made significant advances in the development of marine policy over the last number of years, culminating in the launch of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) last summer and the signing of the Maritime Area Planning Act in December 2021, elements of which have already been commenced.

The NMPF creates an overarching framework for decision-making that is consistent, evidence-based and secures a sustainable future for all activities in the maritime area. It contains the objectives, policies and supporting actions which the Government considers necessary to support the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources.

The NMPF includes a detailed section on fisheries (section 16) and a series of policies on fisheries, which will inform the assessment of all planning applications in the maritime area. Any proposal that may have a significant adverse impact must demonstrate how it will, in order of preference, (a) avoid, (b) minimise or (c) mitigate any such impact. These measures will have to be addressed in the planning application and will be assessed by the relevant planning authority.

The NMPF will be the key consideration for assessing applications for marine authorisations and making a balanced decision, taking into account the various marine activities, including fisheries. All applications for development will be considered in terms of their consistency with the objectives of the plan.

In addition, the Maritime Planning Act 2021 facilitates public consultation on applications for development in the maritime area. This allows those with fishing interests to make submissions on applications for development. The Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended) require planning authorities to give notice of valid planning applications to certain prescribed bodies where the development would be relevant to the functions of that body. Reports prepared by prescribed bodies and submitted to the relevant planning authorities are considered as part of the assessment of the planning application. My officials are preparing secondary legislation, which will address the identification of prescribed bodies for maritime applications.

In addition, the setting up of a Seafood/Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) working group is at an advanced stage. This will assist the managed introduction of the offshore renewables industry into the maritime area. The initial stated aim of the working group will be to agree a communications protocol between these two strategically important maritime sectors.

The position of chairperson to this group was recently advertised and attracted strong interest from a broad range of suitably qualified candidates. My Department, together with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, conducted a shortlisting process and subsequently interviewed the shortlisted candidates. I expect a recommendation from my officials as to the nomination for chairperson in the coming days and I will then move to appoint the chairperson as a matter of priority, with the aim of holding the inception meeting of the Seafood/ORE working group at the earliest available opportunity.


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