DECC Workshop provides insight into MAP Bill
The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (“DECC”) hosted an online Industry Workshop and Q&A session today to provide insight into the Maritime Area Planning (“MAP”) Bill.
Below are what we consider are the most important points from the session:
- Final draft of the MAP Bill is expected later this month.
- RESS terms and conditions are expected to be published in September 2021.
- Phase 1 (i.e. Relevant Projects) and Phase 2 Projects do not have to wait for Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) to be prepared to submit a MAC application.
- Developers can continue with planning consent applications to An Bord Pleanála (“ABP”) even if a Judicial Review challenge has been taken on the decision to grant a MAC.
- The aim is that MARA will be operational approximately one year after the enactment of the MAP Bill.
- Relevant projects are being fast tracked and will be the first tranche of projects allowed to apply for MACs. The DECC is continuing to work on qualifying criteria for phase 2 projects. Geography will not be a criteria, based on the Attorney General’s legal advices. Enduring projects will be dealt with subsequently and separately and will only be allowed to progress after the DMAP process has concluded.
- OREDP 2 will be prepared in advance of and will form the basis for the preparation of the DMAPs.
- We already know that a licence cannot be granted for any activity which requires EIA – the DECC confirmed that if an EIA is required it is necessary to go through the planning process and seek consent from ABP.
- NPWS expect the offshore SPA designation process to be concluded by 2024/2025. The Irish Sea is being moved forward to “as early as possible”, to provide certainty for the Industry.
- The Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage is not proposing to legislate for the ‘Rochdale Envelope Design’ concept in the MAP Bill. The concept is the subject of the recent Derryadd case (a date has been allocated to hear the application for leave to appeal in this case). The DECC’s current view is that some flexibility is provided by the pre-application consultation with ABP and the provision for an application for amendments to be made to a planning permission once granted (this provision is heavily based on the s.146B provision in the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2021). However, it stated it may be open to considering this flexibility further.
- Only MAC holders can engage in pre-application consultation with ABP, but the DECC confirmed it would be open to considering provisions for Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects to engage in such consultation in advance of obtaining a MAC.
- A MAC automatically terminates if ABP refuses a planning permission – query the implications of this if judicial review proceedings are issued against a refusal decision. We have successfully challenged these types of decisions before.
- The DECC confirmed the draft guidelines for the financial assessment criteria of MAP applications are being prepared.