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For Written Answer on : 20/09/2022
Question Number(s): 262,261 Question Reference(s): 45447/22, 45446/22
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.


* To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the current average processing times with respect to phase 1 and phase 2 offshore wind foreshore licence assessments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– David Stanton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 20 September, 2022.

* To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage his Department’s role, if any, in the processing of phase 1 and phase 2 offshore wind foreshore licence assessments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– David Stanton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 20 September, 2022.


My Department’s Foreshore Unit operates the consenting regime under the Foreshore Act 1933, managing the regulation of a range of different marine activities and infrastructural developments. The volume of applications made under the Act in recent years has grown significantly. In parallel, my Department is leading an extensive marine management reform programme, the likes of which the State has never seen.

The expected time for processing and determining foreshore applications can vary considerably and is influenced by the quality of the application and supporting documents received, the nature and complexity of the application, the level of public engagement during the consultation process and up until recently, impacts from restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19, among other matters. Each application must be assessed appropriately in accordance with the applicable requirements of domestic and EU law including the EIA Directive, Birds and Habitats Regulations and the Foreshore Act. Several of the foreshore consents issued in recent years have been the subject of judicial review proceedings and the process for assessing such applications has been amended as a result, taking into account legal advices and evolving case law.

A range of foreshore consents related to offshore energy infrastructure granted under the Foreshore Act 1933 in recent years have been assessed and prioritized in tandem with the other high level Government objectives in the maritime space. Specific consents relate to strategic energy interconnectors e.g. Greenlink Inteconnector, Celtic Interconnector; applications relating to a range of port developments e.g. Shannon Foynes, Rosslare Harbour, Dublin Port and Cork Ports. In parallel, other foreshore lease and licence applications, not related to energy infrastructure, that have been considered and consented include telecommunication cables, waste water treatment facilities, strategic infrastructure, flood relief works, local authorities’ infrastructural works e.g. bridges, marinas, coastal protection works, coastal protection projects and public amenities etc. Details for foreshore applications and determinations are available on my Department’s website

A further proportion of foreshore applications on hand include licence applications for site investigations within the foreshore area linked to the proposed development of offshore renewable energy projects. The site investigations are critical activities developers undertake in order to investigate viability and prepare environmental impact assessments of potential future offshore renewable energy infrastructure.

My Department has also been prioritising site investigation licence applications linked to qualified ORE projects, known as “relevant projects” or Phase 1 projects, which qualify to make an application to the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications for a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) as part of the transition provisions in the MAP Act 2021. Any project in this category granted a MAC by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications must then apply for the necessary development permission from An Bord Pleanála under the new marine planning system. I have consented to fifteen site investigation licences for Phase 1 Relevant projects in recent years and a further 8 applications are under assessment and will conclude shortly.  My Department has also been managing the other caseload of site investigation applications not associated with Phase 1. In that context, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications concluded a public consultation on the criteria for the second batch or Phase 2 projects in quarter 1 of this year and is currently considering how to proceed.

The Government last week approved the prioritisation of renewable energy plans and projects in the Irish maritime area, as a direct response to the energy and climate crises. This decision follows on from the recently agreed Government ambitions for an increase of offshore wind energy, which targets the delivery of an additional 2GW of offshore wind for the production of green hydrogen. Following this decision, the Government’s intention is that the following projects in the maritime area will receive priority attention:

  • Any marine infrastructure projects that align with Government decisions to address risks to energy security of supply.
  • Projects that are capable of delivering 200MW or above of offshore renewable energy to meet domestic demand before 2030, using well established, proven technologies.
  • Infrastructure that will support delivery and deployment of Renewable Energy projects such as grid and port facilities.
  • Projects utilising emerging technology that may have the ability to assist the State in meeting its 2030 targets such as floating wind and green hydrogen

To give effect to this decision, approval has also been given to the immediate development of a Statutory Marine Planning Policy Statement (MPPS) by my Department that will prioritise energy and energy-related projects above all other maritime activities during the six year lifetime of the MPPS. By taking this action, the State’s consenting authorities, such as An Bord Pleanála and the soon to be established Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) will prioritise the processing of renewable energy projects, including those that support the development of Offshore Renewable Energy infrastructure in both the marine and onshore.

The Foreshore Unit in my Department is currently assessing the current caseload of foreshore lease and licence applications in the context of this Government decision. A key consideration will be how the significant number of site investigation licenses that are on hand and not associated with the Phase 1 projects can be managed given the priority status afforded across Government to applications associated with projects capable of delivering before 2030 using well established technologies.