The enactment of new planning laws will see the beginning this summer of a transformation in how we plan our towns, cities and regions, according to Minister of State with responsibility for Planning and Sustainable Development, Ciaran Cuffe, TD.
Staff at the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government will begin work this summer on implementing the new legislation, which aims to ensure that the right types of development are built in the right places at the right time.
A fundamental element of the legislation is the requirement for local authorities to review development plans, and ensure the correct levels of land are available for residential development.
“Overzoning and bad planning played a fundamental role in creating the property bubble. This legislation aims to ensure that these practices become a thing of the past. Good planning laws will protect communities, and protect Government investment. Planning authorities and the communities they serve will significantly benefit from these new planning laws as they will enable more joined-up delivery of essential infrastructure and facilities such as public transport, schools, amenities in the areas prioritised for development,” the Minister explains.
Environmental Aspects of the New Legislation
Preventing Sprawl: The legislation enshrines in law the principles of sustainable settlement patterns and planning for the best use of land, having regard to location, scale and density of new development to benefit from investment of public funds in transport infrastructure and public transport services. This should help to reduce the unsustainable trends in car-based suburban sprawl, which was allowed to develop over the last decade.
Climate Change & Energy: The Act, and significantly for the first time in Irish law, introduces definitions of ‘Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas’ and ‘Adaptation to Climate Change’. All development plans must now include mandatory objectives to promote sustainable land-use and transportation strategies to reduce energy demand, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the necessity for adaptation to climate change.
Water Quality: The legislation transposes the provisions of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) directly into planning law. All development plans must include mandatory objective to promote the compliance of land-use planning policies and objectives with the provisions of the relevant River Basin Management Plans. This is essential to achieve ‘Good’ status in all water bodies by 2015 in accordance with our
obligations under the WFD.
Overarching Environmental Objectives: It is now a mandatory requirement that all Development Plans include a statement of overarching environmental objectives which demonstrates how the development objectives in the development plan are consistent, as far as practicable, with the conservation and protection of the environment.
Retention Planning Permission: The practice whereby an applicant could circumvent the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive by applying for retrospective retention permission has been outlawed. It will no longer be possible to apply for retention planning permission where an application would have required an EIA, would have been required to be screened for EIA, or would have required an Appropriate Assessment pursuant to the Habitats Directive.
Exempted Development & Environmental Assessment: The new legislation makes it explicit that all development, where it would require an Environmental Impact Assessment, must apply for planning permission. This removes a lacuna in the legislation whereby sub-threshold developments, which may have significant impacts on the environment, would in some circumstances not require planning permission.