The Irish Government continues to usher in a new era in offshore infrastructure development. This is being done through the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), and the launch of the first offshore Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP).
The Government has officially launched the MARA. The newly established Authority will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area. Its role will include:
- Assessing Maritime Area Consent (MAC) applications for the maritime area, which are required by developers before development permission can be granted
- Granting marine licences for specified activities
- Compliance and enforcement of MACs, licences and offshore development consents
- Investigations and prosecutions
- Administration of the existing Foreshore consent portfolio
- Fostering & promoting co-operation between regulators of the maritime area
The establishment of MARA also prompted the Government to commence a number of provisions of the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021. This means that new applications for MACs and licences in the maritime area will have to be made to the new agency MARA. Consequently, there are now only limited functions that may be performed by the relevant Ministers under the Foreshore Act 1933.
The first DMAP proposal for Offshore Renewable Energy has also been announced, which will be located off the South Coast of Ireland. A DMAP is effectively a development plan for a specified offshore maritime area. DMAPs will determine the broad area where offshore renewable energy projects can be developed. The geographical area of this initial proposal is approximately 8,600 square kilometres in size. It extends from the High Water Mark on Ireland’s south coast to the 80-metre depth contour and/or the edge of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This will be refined throughout the development and consultation process.
Following a period of public engagement, a 'Draft DMAP' will be published. It is anticipated to encompass a significantly smaller footprint than initially outlined in the proposal, will be published. Following this, a further statutory public consultation will take place, before the Draft DMAP is presented to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and both houses of the Oireachtas for approval.
This decision to situate Ireland’s first offshore renewable energy DMAP off the South Coast reflects analysis that there is sufficient onshore grid capacity available to connect 900 MW of offshore wind generation capacity to the onshore transmission system along the South Coast.
The establishment of MARA forms a key pillar of the new regulatory regime in the maritime area. It provides a statutory body to allow certain maritime consents to be assessed. Further details can be found on MARA’s website.
The first eight-week public information consultation is currently open for the proposed South Coast DMAP. The closing date for submissions is 5.30pm Tuesday 26 September 2023.
For more information and expert advice, please contact a member of our Planning & Environment team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.