For Written Answer on : 20/09/2022
Question Number(s): 263 Question Reference(s): 45448/22
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage if foreshore licenses are required for non-invasive marine survey work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The responsibility for the development on Ireland’s foreshore is currently regulated under the provisions of the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended. The Foreshore Act 1933 requires that a lease or licence must be obtained from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government for the carrying out of works or placing structures or material on, or for the occupation of or removal of material from, State-owned foreshore, which represents the greater part of the foreshore. The Act provides for the issuing of licences or leases which are in the public interest and provides for the removal of any material within the foreshore and not more than thirty feet below the surface thereof.
The position in relation to proposed geophysical survey activity involving sonar and echo sounding equipment and which are undertaken in a non-intrusive manner and do not place anything on or remove or disturb or interfere with the seabed or shore, is that a foreshore licence is not required under section 3 of the Foreshore Act 1933 on foot of recent legal advices.
There are however, obligations on proposers intending to undertake such survey activity to seek Ministerial consent in accordance with the EC (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011. The existing foreshore licence assessment process for both geophysical surveys and geotechnical-type activities may address all necessary assessments referred to above, because in determining whether to issue the licence the assessments referred to under the Regulations will be conducted. The NPWS website provides guidance on obligations under The EC (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011-2021 and can be contacted directly by proposers who wish to discuss consent requirements arising.
My Department is working to assess the implications of the recent legal advice with a view to streamlining consent processes in advance of the establishment of the new maritime area regulator – the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) in 2023.
In that context, the Foreshore Unit and NPWS are actively engaged with a view to developing a protocol which will provide clarity for applicants in this regard. I expect this to be concluded shortly.