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Updates to legislation reforms proposed

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Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021 Passed by the Oireachtas The Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021 passed through all stages of the Oireachtas on December 17th 2021. This Bill represents the biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State, with a legal and administrative framework to support a marine environment that Ireland can use, enjoy and benefit from socially, environmentally and economically. The Bill establishes in law a new planning regime for the maritime area and will be a key enabler of decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy sources and the development of offshore energy. It will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle, i.e. one State consent (Maritime Area Consent) to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment. The Bill is also a key component of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF), Ireland’s first national framework for managing marine activities, launched earlier this summer. The framework, which will apply to a maritime area of approximately 495,000km², outlines a vision for how we want to use, protect and enjoy our seas in the years up to 2040. The Framework is a parallel document to the National Planning Framework, which guides terrestrial planning and development. In response to the Bill’s passage through the Oireachtas, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, said: “My Department is leading an extensive marine management reform programme, the likes of which the State has never seen. The Maritime Area Planning Bill represents a giant leap forward towards meeting our ambitious climate action goals and targets and is a result of many of years of work in my Department to modernise our marine planning system. It will also play a significant role in the Government’s response to climate change and to reaching the renewable energy goals set forth in the Climate Action Plan.” Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke TD, who has specific responsibility for marine planning, said: “This Bill gives legal underpinning to an entirely new marine planning system, which balances our huge offshore wind energy potential with the need to protect our marine environment. It will also introduce a new independent agency, MARA, which will be based in Wexford and focused solely on the regulation of our maritime area”. Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD commented, “The passage of this Bill is a critical and hugely welcome development in our efforts to mitigate climate change by decarbonising our energy sources through the development of offshore renewable energy. Not only that, but this Bill will embed robust environmental assessments in every part of the planning decision. With the development of our MPA legislation next year, we’re working towards a strong, interconnected, coherent network of protected areas to ensure the sustainable use of our marine environment.” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Legislative Changes proposed to the Forestry Act 2014 aimed at increasing the Planting of Native Trees The Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett is delighted to announce that she has secured cabinet approval to bring about changes to the Forestry Act 2014 and to make it easier to plant small areas of native trees. The amendment will enable the Department Agriculture, Food and the Marine to increase native tree planting as part of a scheme by removing the requirement for an afforestation licence for areas up to 1 ha and to allow increased planting of small areas of riparian woodland. Welcoming the proposed changes, Minister Hackett emphasised the priority associated with the legislation to align her Department’s commitments in the programme for Government and the recently published Climate Action Plan. The Minister commented, “These new arrangements will enable my Department to further incentivise the planting of native tree species which will contribute to Ireland’s targets, including climate change, biodiversity, habitats and water quality. My Department will consult with industry stakeholders to ensure that the schemes and measures developed will complement existing tree planting schemes”. Importantly the requirement to comply with environmental law is not undermined by making this change as all works are controlled by regulation through a Departmental scheme. The development of a scheme will be undertaken following the completion of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. Eligibility criteria will be incorporated into the scheme which will ensure that all tree planting works are undertaken in a legally compliant and sustainable manner. The Minister said, “I am confident that these changes will be particularly important in terms of creating new native woodlands and undisturbed water setbacks that can be used to deliver meaningful ecosystem services that protect and enhance water quality and aquatic ecosystems. The creation of these permanent semi-natural landscape features alongside streams, rivers and lakes will protect and enhance water quality and aquatic habitats into the future.” It is important to note that stakeholder consultation will take place on any proposed measures to ensure that existing tree planting measures are complementary. The next CAP and Forestry Programme will provide opportunities to encourage more tree planting and the Department welcomes engagement with stakeholders in the months ahead as the detail of schemes are developed.

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