Planning system to go green

New measures are to be introduced to make planning regulations more environmentally sustainable and bring them in line with national climate change policies.

Ireland’s Environment Minister John Gormley announced a raft of measures that will be included in new legislation to amend the existing Planning Acts.

“The proposals for the Bill represent the latest instalment of a package of measures that I have taken or planned since I took office last year to streamline the planning framework and where possible achieve a better alignment with key national policy objectives including, in particular, addressing climate change through the planning system,” he said.

Some of the improvements are being made following recent European legal developments.

Mr Gormley said: “In response to the European Court of Justice ruling on July 3, I propose to remove the possibility of retention for unauthorised developments which would otherwise have been subject to Environmental Impact Assessments.

“I also propose to put in place strengthened legal provisions in relation to the Appropriate Assessment of development plans, local area plans and planning schemes prepared for strategic development zones under the Habitats Directives.”

The changes will also aim to make planning processes more efficient and transparent, particularly at a local level.

Mr Gormley said aspects of green development, such as the delivery of high quality sustainable infrastructure, are dependent on an effective local planning system.

“The Bill will help to reduce the need for central government intervention in the local government development plan process,” he added.

Other proposed improvements to the planning system include better guidance on flood risk management, exempting certain renewable technologies from planning consent to encourage their uptake, and guidelines for sustainable residential development.

New building regulations published last December aim to achieve at least a 40% reduction in primary energy consumption and a 40% reduction in related CO2 emissions from new buildings.

The regulations are set to be revised again in 2010 to achieve a 60% target.

Kate Martin

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