Irish planning law to be expanded

Government proposes tougher industrial accident controls, greater public access to justice

The Irish government yesterday proposed amendments to a major plan for developing the country's infrastructure that will insert new provisions on public rights of appeal against planning decisions, strengthen industrial accident control, tighten controls on quarry operation and enable introduction of road charges.

The planning and development law, launched by the government late last year (ENDS Daily 16 November 1999), will invest euros 51.6bn (I£40.6bn) in infrastructure changes between 2000 and 2006. It has already been passed by both parliamentary houses and will now go to a parliamentary committee, which is due to propose any further changes by mid-April.

Environment minister Noel Dempsey announced changes to the law yesterday that include an extension of citizens' rights to appeal planning decisions. Individuals would now be allowed to appeal against an application if an interest in the surrounding area could be shown or where they "would be adversely affected" by an application.

The move towards greater public rights in planning procedures has nevertheless been attacked as insignificant by NGO Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE). Last month the group protested that the government's proposals would breach EU law on public access rights (ENDS Daily 9 February).

Hazardous accident prevention and control are also covered under the government's new amendments through stronger efforts to transpose the EU's Seveso II directive. New tolling arrangements mean that Mr. Dempsey will issue policy directives to the national roads authority and local authorities. These bodies will also be awarded greater powers over tolling schemes and by-laws. Planned quarries of over five hectares or which are deemed environmentally sensitive will be subject to environmental impact assessments, while those over five years old must now be registered with the local planning authority, which will then be able to impose operating conditions.

Follow Up:
Irish environment ministry, tel: +353 1 888 2000 and press release; FIE, tel: +353 27 73025.

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