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Sky’s Not the Limit? Building Height Restrictions in Urban Areas

Guidelines, entitled "Urban Development and Building Heights", were issued in December 2018 by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. These Guidelines set out a new and updated national planning policy on building heights in urban areas. They also elaborated on the strategic policy framework set out in Project Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework. The interpretation of the Guidelines was challenged in 2019 by Spencer Place Development Company Limited, in which Mr Justice Simons recently handed down a judgment on the interpretation and interaction between the Guidelines and statutory planning schemes adopted for strategic development zones. We discuss this decision and its outcomes for future planning applicants here

Potential implications of Brexit on environmental law

As another year passes without the official exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union coming into full force and effect, we take a look at the potential future consequences on the environment and on environmental law that may flow once Brexit day is upon us and thereafter.

Whilst the laws and regulatory processes may be different, the same homogenous and inseparable eco-system will continue to exist no matter what political borders are implemented on the island of Ireland post Brexit. We take a look at the significant impact any disturbance to the effectiveness of environmental or planning law by Brexit could have on the environment in Northern Ireland and Ireland here

Overdue legislative reform of offshore planning process

The General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill, was published in 2019. This Bill evolved from the Maritime Area and Foreshore Amendment Bill, and seeks to establish a new marine planning system, which:

  • Is underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Statement
  • Is guided by the National Marine Planning Framework
  • Consists of a development management regime from the high water mark to the outer limit of the State’s continental shelf, which is administered by An Bord Pleanala and the coastal local authorities

This new regime will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle. That is one state consent (Maritime Area Consent) to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment. A Government Decision is expected in Q2 2020 on the offshore grid framework. This is likely to be followed by the Regulators decision on the Regulatory Framework in Q3/Q4 2020, as well as the adoption of the Marine Spatial Plan, which will provide the policy context that determines whether a centralised or decentralised grid model will be operated in Ireland for the Offshore Renewable Energy regime. We set out a summary of some of the key points to note from the MPDM here


Significant progress was made in the offshore sector with the introduction of the General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill. This perhaps comes as a result of the Government’s focus on tackling climate change. This was further reflected also in our national Budget for 2020. It is likely to have a significant impact on the streamlining of the development consent process for foreshore projects as it will integrate certain parts of the foreshore consent process with the existing on-land planning system. Once enacted, the Bill will mean significant implications for future marine development and management in Ireland. It is clear that climate change and development of Ireland’s renewable energy sector will remain a focus going into next year.

Looking forward to 2020, the Brexit finish line looms and significant effects on the regulatory treatment of the environment are undoubtedly expected. It remains to be seen what the full impact of Brexit will be, but the introduction of legislation safe-guarding the single biogeographic unit that is the island of Ireland will be of utmost importance in ensuring preservation of certain environmental safeguards. 2020 will also bring needed clarity to the offshore planning process and we look forward to a swift enactment of the Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill into primary legislation. This will ensure offshore renewables play their full part in the achievement of Ireland’s ambitious 2030 targets including the connection to the grid of at least 3.5 GW of offshore wind. We are hopeful that 2020 will bring the implementation of actions needed for a sustainable and more renewable Ireland for years to come.

For more information on planning issues impacting your projects in 2020, 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.

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