27 Sept 2022

Laois council to follow new guidelines on deciding on environmental impact of development

Laois council to follow new guidelines on deciding on environmental impact of development

What impact does development have on environment and is it sustainable

New environment guidelines will help Laois County Council drawing up development plans for the county and its towns that will be sustainable and help the battle against climate change, according to the Government.

The Minister of State for Local Government and Planning at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Peter Burke, TD, has published updated Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) guidelines which it is claimed will assist Laois planners in carrying out efficient and effective SEAs.

His Department said the guidelines will help Laois County Council integrate environmental issues into Development Plans and contribute towards achieving national and international sustainable development goals, important in the context of national and international action against climate change and biodiversity loss. The Department has written to Laois County Council and all planning authorities, advising them of the updated SEA Guidelines. 

A statement said the European Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency have reviewed the operation of the SEA process and its guidelines, first issued in 2004. It is claimed that the updated guidelines address some of the weaknesses in the SEA process that were highlighted by these studies.

For example, the Department says the Guidelines provide clarity on the statutory requirement for monitoring the effects of implementing a relevant plan (e.g. County Development Plan) on the environment. This aspect of SEA has been implemented with limited effectiveness in Ireland and across the EU. 

It is stated that the SEA guidelines must be taken into account by Regional Assemblies and Planning Authorities during the preparation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies, County Development Plans and Local Area Plans. The SEA process also provides the public with greater opportunities to participate in the plan-making process.

A statement said it provides transparency into how certain decisions are made. SEA has been an important process in ensuring that plans and programmes produced in Laois are compliant with the relevant national, regional and local environmental objectives and targets.

Under Housing for All, the Government’s national housing plan to 2030, the Government committed to updating guidance on Strategic Environmental Assessment. This is to improve the functioning of the planning system in order to increase new housing supply in a sustainable manner. 

Publishing the updated SEA guidelines, Minister Burke said: “These updated SEA Guidelines will help ensure Development Plans and other important planning frameworks for Laois protect both Laois's and the national environment. With these guidelines the learnings of national and European evaluations of the SEA process are being put into practice in our planning system. Given European and international focus on actions against climate change and biodiversity loss, SEA will continue to have an important role in ensuring that Laois's Development Plans and programmes comply with relevant environmental objectives and targets, therefore contributing towards a more environmentally sustainable future.”

The update to Strategic Environmental Assessment Guidelines was been carried out alongside the review of the Department’s separate Development Plan Guidelines for Local Authorities.

SEA in Ireland occurs at all levels of land use plan-making and accounts for over three quarters of all SEA activity in Ireland, including the National Planning Framework, Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies, County Development Plans and Local Area Plans. 

The Department’s original SEA Guidelines date from 2004. They were published just after the transposition of the SEA Directive into Irish law and the introduction of its formal implementation into the Irish land use planning system.

The updated Guidelines (and contact details for statutory consultees in the SEA process) are available here: publication/7e1aa-strategic- environmental-assessment- guidelines-for-regional- assemblies-and-planning- authorities/

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