knowledge | 2 July 2021 |

It’s Mari–Time! Maritime Area Planning Bill and National Marine Planning Framework, Hot Off the Press

Late on 30 June 2021, the pre-initiation copy of the (marvellously-named) Maritime Area Planning (“MAP”) Bill; and the National Marine Planning Framework were published. Together with the Government’s Policy Statement on the Framework for Ireland’s Offshore Electricity Transmission System and the Marine Jurisdiction Bill, they will form a new framework to govern marine activities.

MAP: What’s in a name?

The MAP Bill began life with the much less catchy title of Maritime Planning and Development Management Bill. Before that, reforms were proposed through the Marine Area and Foreshore (Amendment) (“MAFA”) Bill. The MAP Bill goes much further than previous proposals with nine parts (subdivided into 181 sections) and twelve schedules, described in the table below.

MAP Bill

Part I: Preliminary and General

Part I provides definitions for key terms and clarifies that the Act applies to the maritime area extending from the high water of ordinary or medium tides of the sea to the outer limit of the continental shelf (as defined by section 3). This provides a regulatory and marine planning framework for development far beyond the limits of the foreshore (12 nautical miles).

Part II: Maritime Spatial Plans and Designated Maritime Area Plans

Part II, s 14 provides that it does not apply to an area outside the maritime area, unless expressly stated otherwise. It designates the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage as competent authority for the purposes of the Marine Spatial Planning Directive, requiring the Minister to publish a Marine Spatial Plan and provides a number of options for how this can be done.

Part II, s 20 allows the Minister to designate one or more public bodies to prepare and publish a Designated Marine Area Plan.

Part III: the Marine Area Regulatory Authority

Part III, s 40 provides the framework for the establishment of a Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (“MARA”) and grants it responsibility for considering, granting, suspending or monitoring Maritime Area Consents along with general enforcement powers.

Part IV: Maritime Area Consent

Part IV provides the framework for Maritime Area Consents (“MACs”); the criteria to be taken into account in determining a MAC application (as further described in Schedule 5); the rules governing their grant or refusal; the conditions which can be attached (as further described in Schedule 6); rules to govern their assignment, amendment, surrender, and site rehabilitation; and transitional provisions for holders of foreshore authorisations.

Part IV, s 73 places an obligation on developers seeking to develop in a specific maritime area to first acquire a MAC. This does not apply to the maritime usages specified in Schedule 3 (eg the construction or operation of upstream gas pipelines; or the exploration or working of petroleum or restoration thereafter).

Part IV, s 74 places an obligation on anyone seeking to use a specific maritime area who does not require permission (and is not conducting activities listed in Schedule 4) to obtain a MAC. 

Part IV, Chapter 12, s101 provides transitional provisions for existing foreshore authorisations.

Part V: Licences authorising certain maritime usages  in the maritime area

Part V places a prohibition on usages listed in Schedule 7 (eg dredging, marine environmental surveys) from taking place without a licence or an exemption.

Part VI: Enforcement

Part VI governs enforcement. It creates a framework for the enforcement of the MAP regime and the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) and grants MARA powers to investigate and take action to address offences.

Part VII: Miscellaneous matters (Part VII)

Part VIII: Amendments to the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) (Part IX)

Part VIII creates a new segment (Part XXI) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) to govern maritime development and establish rules to underpin the authorisation of certain development within or close to the nearshore.

Part IX: Consequential Amendments

Part IX amends key legislative frameworks such as the Foreshore Act 1933; the Registration of Title Act 1964; the Foreshore (Amendment) Act 1992; and the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Part X).

Schedule I: Maritime Spatial Planning Directive

Schedule II: Fit and Proper Person

Schedule II provides guidance on the points to be taken into account by MARA in any determination of whether a party is a “fit and proper person” for the purposes of MAC grant or MAC holding.

Schedule III: Proposed Maritime Usages to which section 73(1) shall not apply

Part IV, s 73 places an obligation on developers seeking to develop in a specific maritime area to first acquire a MAC. This does not apply to the maritime usages specified in Schedule III (eg the construction or operation of upstream gas pipelines; or the exploration or working of petroleum or restoration thereafter).

Schedule IV: Proposed Maritime Usages to which section 74 (1) shall not apply

Part IV s 74 places an obligation on anyone seeking to use a specific maritime area who does not require permission to acquire a MAC. This does not apply to the maritime usages listed in Schedule IV.  

Schedule V: Criteria that MARA shall have regard to in determining MAC application

Schedule VI: Types of Conditions that MARA may attach to MAC or that are deemed to be attached to MAC

Schedule VII: Maritime Usages that may be undertaken in Maritime Area pursuant to Licence

Schedule VIII: Types of Condition that MARA may attach to licence

Schedule IX: Redress for Contravention of s 148(5)

Section 148(5) protects a whistleblower from penalisation from an employer, with schedule IX providing a framework for redress.

Schedule X: Insertion of eighth schedule of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended)

This schedule lists the classes of development to which Chapter III of Part XXI of the Planning and Development Act applies.

Schedule XI: Insertion of ninth schedule of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended)

This lists relevant sections for the purposes of s 309 (construction of references to land).

Schedule XII: Amendment of Certain Provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended)

This schedule provides a table detailing the extensive amendments made to the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).


As drafted, the Bill provides a regulatory and marine planning framework for offshore renewable energy developments beyond the limits of the foreshore (12 nautical miles) and provides for the three components of an integrated marine planning system - marine forward planning, marine development management and marine planning enforcement - in a single piece of dedicated legislation. It seeks to replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements, with one State consent (the MAC) to enable occupation of the maritime area, along with one development consent (planning permission) to allow development of that area. The Bill is expected to be introduced to Dáil Éireann on Wednesday, 7 July and MARA is expected to be established as soon as possible after it is signed into law.

MAP and the National Marine Planning Framework

The second key piece of the marine policy infrastructure, the National Marine Planning Framework (“NMPF”) has also just been finalised. This provides a blueprint for the development of marine activities between now and 2040. The NMPF is a single framework to cover all marine-based human activities which “presents [a] vision, objectives and planning policies for each activity, while recognising that...biodiversity-rich marine environment require robust protection.” It contains:

  1. potential high level objectives for Ireland’s first National Marine Planning Framework,
  2. Overarching Marine Planning Policies (“OMPPs”) to apply to all marine activities or development, and
  3. Activity-specific or Sectoral Marine Planning Policies (“SMPPs”) to guide decision makers in assessing or dealing with specific proposals (eg offshore renewable energy).

The NMPF will now sit at the top of the hierarchy of plans and sectoral policies for the marine area (as the National Planning Framework does for terrestrial planning and development). If the MAP Bill becomes law as proposed, MARA will be obliged to have regard to the NMPF (along with the other criteria listed in Schedule V and the requirements of Part IV) when determining MAC applications.

Conclusion

Momentum has been building. The Maritime Jurisdiction Bill which establishes boundaries and zones in the territorial sea has completed all stages in the Seanad and is currently at third stage before Dáil Éireann. Last May the Government published a Policy Statement on the Framework for Ireland’s Offshore Electricity Transmission System, introducing a phased transition to a centralised offshore transmission system model. The NMPF is now in place, and the MAP Bill will be introduced to Dáil Éireann on Wednesday, 7 July. This July is officially Mari-time!

Should you have any queries relating to how the MAP Bill, the NMPF, the Maritime Jurisdiction Bill or the Policy Statement on the Framework for Ireland’s Offshore Electricity Transmission System could affect your business or proposed development please contact Brendan Slattery, Michelle Doyle, Valerie Lawlor, Eva Barrett or your usual contact in McCann FitzGerald. 

 

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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