Thursday, 23 June 2022
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Renewable Energy Generation
27. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when he aims for the proposed revisions to the existing planning exemptions for the installation of solar panels on the roofs of houses to be implemented. [32958/22]
37. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will work with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure schools can erect solar panels without the need for planning permission. [28008/22]
79. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the timeframe in which he intends to introduce new regulations to provide exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission with regard to the installation of solar panels on farms; and the intended timeframe with regard to supplementary regulations intended to reduce proposed restriction zones. [33081/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 37 and 79 together.
Under the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended (the Act), all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated Regulations, requires planning permission. Section 4 of the Act and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended (the Regulations), set out various exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Any such exemptions are subject to compliance with any general restrictions on exemptions set out in the Act or the Regulations and to the specific conditions set out in each class of exempted development in Schedule 2 of the Regulations. Included in the planning exemptions set out in the Regulations are those applying to the installation of solar infrastructure on a variety of building types, including houses, businesses, industrial and agricultural to which specific conditions are attached.
My Department, in the context of the Climate Action Plan and in consultation with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, has undertaken a review of the solar panel planning exemptions set out in the Regulations, with a particular focus on facilitating increased self-generation of electricity. This review is now complete. Substantial changes to the current planning exemption thresholds for solar panels are proposed, including those relating to the installation of solar panels on the roofs of houses and agricultural structures, as well as the introduction of new classes of solar panel planning exemptions for apartments and educational/community/religious buildings.
The draft regulations have been reviewed under the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive and it has been determined that they are likely to have significant effects on the environment, necessitating the undertaking of a full SEA on the draft proposals. The draft regulations have also been screened for Appropriate Assessment (AA) under the Habitats Directive by my Department’s Ecological Assessment Unit (EAU) and the need for AA has been screened out.
A public consultation on the draft solar regulations as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process was launched on 15 June 2022. The consultation will run until 13 July 2022. Further information in relation to the consultation, including the full suite of documentation such as the SEA Environmental Report and details regarding how to make a submission, is available on my Department’s website at the following: www.gov.ie/en/consultation/3813e-public-consultation-on-the-draft-planning-and-development-act-2000-exempted-development-no-3-regulations-2022-and-the-draft-planning-and-development-solar-safeguarding-zone-regulations-2022-solar-exemptions/. Written submissions or observations will be taken into consideration before the finalisation of the draft regulations.
As required under planning legislation, the proposed exempted development regulations must be laid in draft form before the Houses of the Oireachtas and receive a positive resolution from both Houses before they can be made and the SEA process concluded. Accordingly, the process for finalising the solar panel planning exemptions will be completed in the coming months.
While these regulations are out for public consultation, my Department is concurrently examining the scope to draft supplementary regulations to further expand the exemptions by way of reducing the proposed solar safeguarding zones around airports.