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Responsibility for Ireland’s marine planning system has been formally transferred to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC).

The transfer from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage follows recommendations made by the former Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC.

Gallagher had identified an “urgent need to consolidate and rationalise the regulation of marine development and activity to build on the National Marine Planning Framework and Maritime Area Planning Act” (MAP).

This would “give practical effect to Ireland’s ambition to have a modern, fit for purpose, world-leading marine planning system”, the Department of Environment says.

The specific functions transferred are:

  • Policy and legislative responsibilities in relation to marine forward planning and enforcement (under the MAP Act);
  • Governance and oversight of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA);
  • Regulation of activity on the foreshore (under the Foreshore Acts 1933) as part of the migration to the new system operated by MARA under the MAP Act.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications says it “has been preparing for this for some time now” and intends to “provide the resources and focus that will allow immediate changes and accelerate activity”.

It says it has “secured significant additional technical resources that allows it to establish a dedicated marine forward-planning team”.

“This multi-disciplinary team will include marine planners, geographic information systems expertise, marine ecologists, marine mammal and birds experts,”it says.

“One of the core functions of this new team will be to bring forward future Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) to build on the recently-published South Coast DMAP,”it says.

“ The additional technical resources will also enable DECC to accelerate other critical components of the marine planning system such as statutory marine planning guidelines, full implementation of the National Marine Planning Framework and designing the future marine data repository Ireland urgently needs for informed and joined up marine planning,”it says.

It said that Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan will “soon be publishing Ireland’s first statutory Marine Planning Policy Statement”.

The department said this statutory statement will:

  • outline the existing components of Ireland’s marine planning system and the hierarchy of marine policies;
  • set out the strategic principles of marine planning policy that the Government expects marine planning bodies to observe;
  • outline Ireland’s key marine planning priorities for the management of activities in the maritime space during the lifetime of this MPPS, and;
  • detail how marine policy will be monitored and reviewed.

“This Marine Planning Policy Statement will serve as a parallel to the 2015 Planning Policy Statement which underpins the operation of the entire land-planning system in Ireland,”it said.

“The minister also intends to accelerate the transition from foreshore to the new system and it is our objective to work towards achieving substantive phase out of the foreshore function across 2024,”it said.

“This will simplify the regulatory landscape, bring consistency and ensure that the processes set out under the MAP Act are at the centre of the new regime,”it said.

The department also said that a cross sectoral Marine Spatial Planning Advisory Group is being reactivated and will meet next month.

“It will return to meeting on a regular basis, providing an important vehicle for overseeing implementation of the existing NMPF and informing the development of the next NMPF,” it said.

“The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is also leading out on the establishment of a cross-Government structure to bring together all departments and agencies with a marine remit,” it said.

“This new group will provide for alignment of marine policies and of State investment in the maritime sector, giving leadership and oversight on a whole of Government basis,” it said.

Welcoming today’s formal transfer, Minister Ryan said: “I’m delighted to welcome these critical new functions into my department”.

“As a nation, we are increasingly turning ourselves towards our seas as we seek sustainable solutions to the challenges we face. I want to ensure that we have a modern marine planning system that delivers for all stakeholders and which supports the sustainable uses of our seas across the broadest remit of activities set out in the National Marine Planning Framework,” he said.

“My aim and the aim of my department, building on the work of our colleagues in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and on the commitment and effort of Minister Darragh O’Brien, is to create a marine planning system that has the confidence of all stakeholders and that delivers for all marine interests in a fair and impartial way,” Ryan said.

“ As the Government department that has more marine policy areas than any other within our remit, we are uniquely placed to deliver on this,” he said.

Published in Marine Planning
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Independent senator Victor Boyhan is questioning the chair of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) today on whether the new State agency has enough resources to carry out its work.

The Dun Laoghaire senator says he is seeking clarity on the resources available to the new body to fully function when MARA’s chair Mark Mellett, former Vice-Admiral of the Defence Forces, addresses the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage this afternoon.

Wishing Vice-Admiral Mellett well in his new leadership role, Senator Boyhan says that as a former member of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, he “understands the challenges around maritime planning consent”.

“MARA will have a key role to play in the streamlined consenting system for the maritime area, including: assessing Maritime Area Consent (MAC) applications for the maritime area, which are required by developers before development permission can be granted,” Boyhan said.

Boyhan noted the new agency, based in Wexford, is also responsible for granting marine licencing for specified activities; compliance and enforcement of MACs, licences, and offshore development consents; investigations and prosecutions; administration of the existing foreshore consent portfolio; and fostering and promoting co-operation between regulators of the maritime area.

Senator Boyhan says he is seeking “clarity” on resources for the agency “as envisaged in the primary legislation for MARA as approved by the Oireachtas”.

Dun Laoghaire Independent senator Victor BoyhanDun Laoghaire Independent senator Victor Boyhan

In his opening statement to the Oireachtas committee, before taking questions, Mellett said that one of MARA’s first priorities is to work with the board and the executive in the preparation and adoption of MARA’s Strategic Plan 2024-2027, establishing trust with all relevant stakeholders.

“Trust takes two forms in this context: trust in the probity of the organisation with transparency, good corporate governance, effective communication and trust in MARA’s efficiency in service delivery,” he said.

“The preparation of our first strategy is a great opportunity to identify our shared vision for the MARA implementing world-class marine planning while addressing the challenges associated with the Climate Action Plan and its implications for the various dimensions of the maritime area,” he said.

“Working collaboratively with all its partners, MARA will support the pillars of Ireland’s marine planning system by:

(i) bringing its expertise, knowledge and skills to enhance forward planning in the maritime area;

(ii) developing a well-functioning transparent consenting system, consistent with the principles of proper marine spatial planning, for all maritime users and activities; and

(iii) Implementing a rigorous, but proportionate, compliance and monitoring programme to ensure the sustainable use of our maritime area and challenge unauthorised development and non-compliance with maritime planning permission.

(iv) MARA will achieve this by building expertise in its people, its processes and its technology. As a key custodian of the maritime area, MARA will ensure that through good management and transparent decision making we will optimise our maritime resource on behalf of all citizens.

(v) MARA will be a key enabler in respect of Ireland’s ambitions for the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) sector, by facilitating a streamlined consenting process, providing certainty to project promoters and delivering a pathway to realising the necessary investment. MARA, at the centre of the new regulatory regime, will also support delivery of other projects of strategic importance (cabling/telecoms projects, ports development, drainage projects, sewerage schemes etc.), facilitating the State to harness significant benefits from realising a low-carbon economy, ensuring energy security, and presenting new opportunities for economic growth”, he said.

“MARA has a key role working with key stakeholders, in particular, Minister O’Brien, Minister Noonan and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Minister Ryan and the Department of Environment, Climate and

Communications, Minister Coveney and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Local Authorities, An Bórd Pleanala, together with a range of other Government departments and State agencies,” Mellett continued.

Referring to ORE as “the twin challenge and opportunity of our time, in which MARA will pay a central role” to address the climate crisis, Mellett said that Ireland is a “key emerging market in the offshore renewable wind energy space”.

“The scale of our resource is huge - our sea area has the potential to be more than ten times that of our land area,”he said.

“With the richest accessible wind resource on the planet, harnessing our offshore energy resource will make a massive contribution towards achieving regional renewable energy self-sufficiency, putting us on a direct path to zero CO2 emissions while at the same time future-proofing our economy and quality of life. Ireland has extraordinary potential for ORE, initially wind but into the future also wave and tidal,” he said.

“To deliver our climate and offshore wind energy ambitions, the State has moved to a plan-led approach. This will help ensure that development of offshore renewable energy is delivered through a number of overlapping phases in a planned, strategic, economical and sustainable way, which will also guide investment within this sector,” Mellett said.

“This is a challenging time internationally for the market so we need to be sure-footed, with the ambitious vision for the future balanced with a pragmatic eye on enabling the next key steps for Phase1 and 2, while also building towards a future framework,” he said.

“ Working with its partners across Government and in industry while building the required confidence, MARA will be a critical agency to deliver this ambition,” he said.

The Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage has 14 members, nine from the Dáil and five from the Seanad.

The meeting today (Nov 7) from 3 pm in Committee Room 2 of Leinster House, Dublin, can be viewed live on Oireachtas TV.

Committee proceedings can also be viewed on the Houses of the Oireachtas Smartphone App, available for Apple and Android devices.

Published in Marine Planning

The Minister for the Environment has urged local communities and various groups involved in existing maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, throughout the South Coast to engage in public participation, which his Department has announced about the 8,600 square kilometres South Coast Designated Area.

The geographical area extends from the High-Water Mark on Ireland’s South Coast to the 80-metre depth contour and/or the edge of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been identified by the Department of the Environment as the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal.

The Department has announced an eight-week public information process at coastal communities about the plan.

The Department says it is “seeking all views from interested citizens and impacted stakeholders, including local communities and community organisations, individual local participants or representative bodies from the fishing and seafood sector, environmental organisations, as well as business groups within counties Waterford, Wexford and Cork.

“We have opened an eight-week public information period which will include face-to-face public information events in a number of venues at coastal communities within counties Wexford, Waterford and Cork.

“The eight-week public information period will run until 26 September and include face-to-face public information events.

This follows the publication of the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal last month by Minister Eamon Ryan, which puts forward the initial ‘proposed’ geographical area within which future offshore renewable energy developments could be advanced. The Proposal Area will be “further refined following public engagement and environmental assessment,” according to the Department.

Further information relating to these events, it says, will be updated regularly and available on its website.

“The aim of this initial public information period is to gather stakeholder feedback on aspects of the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal and seek the views of local communities off Ireland’s South Coast to help determine where future offshore wind energy developments will take place. We are keen to hear from interested citizens and a range of stakeholders, including local community organisations, fishing communities, as well as environmental and business groups within counties Waterford, Wexford and Cork.”

The Department is asking the public to read the South Coast DMAP Proposal and to take part in an online survey, also available on its website. The closing date for submissions is Tuesday, 26 September 2023, at 5.30pm.

The establishment of a South Coast DMAP is part of the wider plan-led approach recently adopted by the Government to ensure sustainable offshore wind development.

“The State, in co-operation with local communities and with consideration for other maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, and environmental protection, will determine the appropriate location for offshore wind developments. The marine area of the DMAP proposal will be further refined following this initial eight-week period of public engagement, which will include expert environmental impact assessments and analysis to assess its suitability for offshore renewable energy development,” the Department statement says.

Following this public information period, a ‘Draft DMAP’ will then be published in autumn 2023, which will identify specific areas for future offshore renewable energy development. The Draft DMAP and accompanying environmental assessments will then undergo a further six-week statutory public consultation period in the autumn, before the Draft DMAP is presented to the Minister for Housing and both houses of the Oireachtas for approval.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, said: "I strongly encourage all interested citizens, local communities, and various groups involved in existing maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, throughout the South Coast to engage in public participation opportunities that will contribute to establishment of the South Coast DMAP over the coming months.

"Future offshore wind energy development has the potential to offer enormous economic opportunities for Ireland’s coastal communities, in terms of jobs growth and local community development. This rigorous plan-led approach adopted by Government will also offer the best way to protect local marine environments while also boosting local community development.

“Further information relating to these upcoming events will be updated and available on the Department’s website here

Published in Marine Planning
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“We are in a race for survival…”

The words of Mark Mellett, chair of MARA, the State’s first marine planning regulatory authority, which has just opened for business in Wexford.

If Government targets on renewable energy offshore are met, there will be up to 2,500 wind turbines off the south, west and east coasts, Mellett, former head of the Defence Forces, said in an interview with Wavelengths.

While just five turbines would yield enough power to match Ardnacrusha’s hydroelectric output on the Shannon, more will be needed for creating sustainable aviation fuels and other requirements, Mellett says.

However, this will not be a “developer-led” industry, he said, as the Government is taking a “plan-led approach” to locations, he says, and he pledged commitment to citizen engagement.

He also said he believes there will be “biodiversity net gain” in between offshore wind farm locations.

MARA - Darragh O'Brien T.D. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Laura Brien Chief Executive of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) and Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Photograph: Patrick BrowneMARA is launched in Wexford - Darragh O'Brien T.D. Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Laura Brien Chief Executive of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) and Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Headed by chief executive Laura Brien, MARA’s role will include assessing applications for maritime area consents (MACs), which are required before developers of offshore wind and other projects in the maritime area can make a planning application.

Here is the full interview below

Published in Wavelength Podcast

The Government’s promise of consultation and involvement of the fishing industry in the development of offshore wind farms is not being delivered on according to South East Coast fishermen, who claim that consultation and discussion, which was promised, has turned out to be a “cosmetic approach” for public relations purposes, without meaningful engagement.

The Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ Organisation, John Lynch, a fishing boat owner himself, says that “picking the site for a wind farm is one thing, but picking the actual location of the turbines is another and of great importance for fishermen and the fishing grounds.”

John Lynch is Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ OrganisationJohn Lynch is Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ Organisation

"Picking the site for a wind farm is one thing, but picking the actual location of the turbines is another"

It was very interesting, at the World Ocean Day Conference, in discussion with representatives of environmental organisations, that they expressed concern to me about the same topic as fishermen - an emerging maritime spatial squeeze affecting all marine users.

Kilmore Quay Harbour and marinaKilmore Quay Harbour and marina

On this week’s Podcast, John Lynch says that the fishing industry is willing to engage with wind farm developers on the way forward, but it “must be meaningful engagement, not just being told about plans without our concerns being listened to.”

“Promises were made, but so far, the fishing industry has been offered nothing, nothing, and this is not what was indicated,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of marine spatial squeeze. We will have massive squeeze in the Irish Sea particularly.”

He is my Podcast interviewee this week. Listen to the Podcast here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Dutch shipping expert Carien Droppers has warned that Ireland should take into account navigational hazards posed by offshore wind farms in marine planning.

Droppers, who spoke at last week’s “Navigating to 2050” conference hosted by Irish Lights in Dublin Castle, cited the Julietta D incident in the North Sea last February as a “wake up call”

She recounted how the bulk carrier collided with a tanker after its anchor gave way in a storm, and it then drifted into the Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm which was under construction.

“We had been issuing warnings for years, and when it did happen it was a big wake up call,” she said

“Even with a standard 500m exclusion zone around wind farms, bad weather can take ships off course,” she said.

Kieran Crowley, Chair, Commissioners of Irish Lights; ; Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton T.D.; and Yvonne Shields O’Connor, CEO, Commissioners of Irish Lights; and Anthony Gurnee, Founder and CEO, Ardmore Shipping as over 280 maritime experts from Ireland, Europe, Asia and Canada gathered in Dublin Castle for a two-day conference organised by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The conference addressed key safety and sustainability issues relating to offshore wind farms, autonomous vessels and meeting carbon neutrality targetsKieran Crowley, Chair, Commissioners of Irish Lights; ; Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton T.D.; and Yvonne Shields O’Connor, CEO, Commissioners of Irish Lights; and Anthony Gurnee, Founder and CEO, Ardmore Shipping as over 280 maritime experts from Ireland, Europe, Asia and Canada gathered in Dublin Castle for a two-day conference organised by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The conference addressed key safety and sustainability issues relating to offshore wind farms, autonomous vessels and meeting carbon neutrality targets Photo: Naoise Culhane

“If ships can’t navigate safely, then goods can’t reach ports...and if fishing can’t be conducted safely, then how will fishers earn their living?” Ms Droppers pointed out.

Windfarm planning in the Irish Sea must take these navigational safety factors into account, she said.

Ms Droppers’s work involves drawing up safety regimes for offshore wind development in the North Sea, one of the busiest maritime zones in the world with over 50 windfarms.

“The North Sea is very restricted, with fishing, shipping, naval exercises, conservation work and now windfarms, so it is like an industrial area with a few highways for marine traffic,”she said.

“In Ireland, your Atlantic coast has a lot of space, but the Irish Sea is more restricted and there could be issues with navigational hazards,”she said.

Published in Marine Planning

An Oireachtas committee has said that greater consultation with the fishing industry must be “facilitated” to provide better planning around marine protected areas (MPAs) and offshore wind farms.

In a report on biodiversity loss, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action says that the expansion of the marine renewables industry in Ireland “must be led in a climate-friendly manner”.

It says “the provision of best practice guidelines supported by legislation would ensure robust and consistent site assessments and risk analyses” in relation to offshore wind development.

It also notes that the lack of cohesive approach to data gathering and monitoring of the marine environment is conflicting with the increased level of interest from wind farm companies.

The points were raised in its report, published on Thursday, highlighting the poor state of biodiversity on a global level, along with issues that are specific to Ireland.

The report’s five key themes include loss of biodiversity in marine environments and future potential for these areas; biodiversity and climate; how degradation of biodiversity occurred in Ireland; agriculture and land use; and how to change the downward trend through monitoring and research, and policy and legislative change.

Committee chair Brian Leddin said the report sets out 75 recommendations which include a call to review the Arterial Drainage Act, and recommendations around the need for prioritising the designation of MPAs.

The recommendations also refer to the “immediate development and implementation of management plans for existing and future designated MPAs to restore biodiversity and prevent further damage”, he said.

The committee took submissions and held consultations with stakeholders last year. Irish Whale and Dolphin Group co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said that “currently the fishing industry is fearful of the future with MPAs and offshore wind farms”, due to lack of consultation.

The report says the committee “agreed that greater consultation with the fishing industry must be facilitated in order to provide better planning around MPAs and wind farms”.

The report says the committee also noted the “lack of inclusion of MPAs in the heads of the Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021, and acknowledged stakeholder concerns that the designation of MPAs is currently not on any legislative footing”.

“Stakeholders highlighted that the lack of legislation around MPAs is currently the biggest issue and that the designation of MPAs along with “sensitivity mapping” is essential to ensure that the development of offshore renewable energy is steered away from more sensitive areas of the marine environment”, it said.

“The marine renewable energy industry in Ireland is expanding rapidly, and Dr Berrow highlighted that while coastal areas provide great opportunity for renewable energy, appropriate planning is needed “to mitigate negative impacts on marine species and habitats” and that this could also be an opportunity to restore and enhance biodiversity,” it said.

“The committee agreed that biodiversity should lead future planning and projects, and that projects should be carefully assessed to best avoid any negative environmental impacts such as what occurred following the incorrect placement of wind farms on peatlands in Donegal,”it says

The committee’s report also highlights the lack of cohesive approach to data gathering and monitoring of the marine environment, which is “conflicting with the increased level of interest from wind farm companies”.

“Dr Berrow stated that a strategy that can achieve objectives that would be in the interest of everyone, including the marine environment, would be worth considering and highlighted the illogical nature of the current system used for surveying sites for wind farms,” it says

“One company will go out one day and on the following day, the same team of observers on the same vessel will go and survey the site next door to it. There is significant duplication of effort and significant increase in disturbance,” Dr Berrow told the committee.

“I appreciate that there is commercial competition, so they need all their own data. Where does the State obligation begin and end and where does that of the private companies begin and end? We suggest that if there were some data sets that were common to all and could be shared, one would not need to go and do it again,” he said

The report says the committee agreed that “while the marine renewables sector is an essential aspect of Ireland’s climate measures and future emissions targets, it is important that the correct approach be taken with construction to ensure the least negative impact for marine environments”.

The report is available here

Published in Marine Planning

New objectives on energy and on the role of the fishing industry in food security are among changes to the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which are outlined in a consultation document.

The NMPF public consultation was twice extended due to Covid-19- related restrictions, according to Minister of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke.

The consultative report just published documents how 225 formal submissions were collated and assessed, and the background to changes which were accepted or refused.

Public consultation ran from November 12th, 2019 to April 30th, 2020.

The report “documents the process of consultation undertaken on the draft NMPF, the level of stakeholder participation that took place”, the ministers have said.

“I welcome the insightful contributions made by the public, NGOs and stakeholders in the maritime sector as part of this public consultation,” Mr Burke said.

“ The NMPF provides us, for the first time in our history, with a proper long-term framework for the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources,” he said.

“I wish to thank all who contributed to the NMPF consultation process, and I also note the considerable level of complexity and detail contained within many of the submissions received,” he added.

The full NMPF consultation report is available to download below.

Published in Marine Planning
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A “vast majority” of respondents in a public consultation on marine protected areas (MPAs) support the Government’s plans for expanding the network, according to an independent review.

Some 93 per cent of respondents also support the inclusion of existing conservation sites into the national MPA network, the review for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has found.

The Programme for Government aims to increase MPAs from around two per cent to 30 per cent of Irish waters by 2030, and most respondents felt the current level was insufficient.

Some 91% support the “key principles for the ongoing MPA process”, the department said.

It said respondents noted information and data gaps along with deficits in education around marine protection.

The need for “meaningful, early, and timely engagement with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, was considered critical to the MPA expansion process”, the department says.

“Respondents stated that the role of stakeholders and the general public was central to successful implementation and management of MPAs, and that coastal and island communities and businesses need to be supported throughout the establishment and implementation of any MPA,” it said.

“Respondents called for urgent action, based on evidence, along with increased research and resourcing, in order to protect our marine life and also the benefits to the economy and society that come from having a diverse and productive marine environment,” it said.

A total of 2,311 responses to the public consultation were received by the department, it says.

The highest percentage of responses to the consultation’s online survey portal came from the environmental sector, followed by education, health and fisheries, it said.

“ A very wide range of representative bodies, organisations and enterprises also made submissions to the consultation,”it noted.

It said it had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

“Many valuable views and perspectives, covering all stakeholders and the public in general, have been highlighted through this public consultation,” Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said.

“The strong support for the MPA process, expressed through these submissions, is a positive indication that stakeholders and the wider public are keenly interested in having a clean, healthy, diverse and productive marine environment,” he said.

“I thank all of those who made a submission for their time, their insights and their substantive input. This is an urgent issue and my department is making strides in the protection of our maritime area,” he said.

Mr O'Brien noted that the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which he described as the “biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State”, was enacted in December.

“We are also progressing the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Environmentalists have been critical of the priority given to maritime area planning legislation, primarily for offshore renewable, in contrast to the timeline for legislation for MPAs.

The full report on Marine Protected Area (MPA) Public Consultation Submissions can be found here

Published in Marine Planning

The State’s new maritime area consent regime has been formally kick-started by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The new regime allows the minister on an interim basis to issue maritime area consents (MACs) to renewable energy developers who meet “relevant assessment criteria”, his department says.

Developers must have a MAC to apply for permission to An Bord Pleanála.

Ryan’s department says the minister will “assess MAC applicants in key areas, including financial and technical competency”.

“This assessment of potential offshore developers will ensure that only the most viable offshore projects will have the opportunity to apply for permission from An Bord Pleanála, thus streamlining the process. The first MACs are expected to be issued in the second half of 2022,” it says.

Marking the opening of the MAC application process, Ryan said that “never has it been more vital that we use our vast offshore wind resource to create renewable energy and ensure the security of our own energy supply”.

“Today marks a tangible milestone in our journey towards 80% renewable electricity by 2030, as set out in the Climate Action Plan,” Ryan said, adding that “the door is now open for a number of developers to progress their offshore wind energy projects”.

The interim powers given to the minister last until the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) is established, and this has been promised in the first quarter of 2023 – although it had been promised by end of last year.

The interim legislation allows the Minister for the Environment and Climate to assess applications from a set of seven “qualified” offshore renewable energy (ORE) projects, known as “relevant projects”.

The seven projects are :

  • Oriel Wind Park;
  • RWE (previously Innogy Renewables), (two projects – Bray and Kish Banks);
  • Codling Wind Park (2 projects – Codling I and Codling II);
  • Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta (Skerd Rocks);
  • North Irish Sea Array Ltd (North Irish Sea Array).

Following an initial batch of MACs, responsibility will be handed to MARA from early 2023, the department says.

Meanwhile, delays in establishing a stakeholder liaison forum have resulted in fishing industry representatives warning that commercial fishing and offshore wind may be on a “collision course”.

Published in Power From the Sea
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