Environmental Planning & Services

November 26, 2014  |  By  | 

W ho protects the envi- ronment? For years in Ireland, it seems as i nobody did – whether through toothless- ness, inactivity, or a lack o public awareness. However, recent changes in legislation, both at home and in Europe, have meant that environmen- tal considerations are very much to the ore – so much so that any uture planning will require an extra level o en- vironmental expertise which has been lacking in the past. For example, the primary provisions o planning leg- islation (Te Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended) have signicant- ly changed in recent years as a direct consequence o the incorporation o the Environ- ment (Miscellaneous Provi- sions) Act 2011 (No 20 o 2011). “he Planning and De- velopment Act 2000 always contained objectives and pro- visions relating to environ- mental protection,” explained Gary Rowan, director o HRA Planning in Limerick. “How- ever, the 2011 Act introduced a greater degree o transposition o the EU Habitats Directive, most notably the express in- clusion under planning o the ‘eects on the integrity o a European Site’, in addition to the established consider- ation o ‘eects on the envi- ronment’.” Tis renewed emphasis on the environment and the role o planning has come about in direct response to Ireland’s conrmed ailure by the ECJ to implement the EU Habitats Directive properly in recent development projects. “While the EU Habitats Di- rective had been in existence since 1992, Ireland may not have had complete regard to it,” said Rowan. “Or, rom a practical implementation per- spective, we may have thought that we were [in compliance]. “Te ECJ rulings suggested otherwise.” Hence, we now have the in- troduction o various aspects o the Environment (Miscel- laneous Provisions) Act 2011 and this new regime will undoubtedly have a number o ramications or planning in Ireland – and though the Environmental Impact As- sessment (EIA) obligation has been in place since 2000 as part o the Planning and Development Act 2000, there is now ar greater pressure on developers, consultants and local authorities to ensure compliance. Te EIA Directive and the obligations or EIA assesses the potential or signicant adverse impacts o certain (threshold) projects on the environment, including the sites themselves and other en- vironmental variables, such as soils and geology, hydrology, landscape and cultural heri- tage and human beings Since 2011, the obligations o the EU Habitats Directive have been transposed into also examining eects on the in- tegrity o designated European sites – Special Areas o Con- servation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) – a direct transposition o Article 6 o the EU Habitats Directive. “Unlike EIA, Appropriate Assessment is a determinative ecological based assessment – in other words, it can de- termine whether a develop- ment can or cannot proceed irrespective to other planning criteria,” explained Rowan. “Tis assessment is based on specic data relating to the avourable condition and conservation status certain habitats and species identied as qualiying eatures within those ‘designated’ sites.” According to Rowan, prob- lems occur as this primari- ly ecological assessment is then decided upon by land use planners, who oten have limited understanding or ex- perience o denitions such as “integrity” and “unction” o European sites – and the ecological characteristics o “qualiying” eatures. Te issue is both helped and hindered by the economic environment in which these legislative changes took place. “Te legislation changed during a period o relative de- velopment inactivity during the post-boom period,” he ex- plained. “Planners now need to understand the dynamics o the EU Habitats Directive, how it relates to decision-making planning, the assessment pro- cess and the sensitivity o the ecological unction and in - tegrity o development sites.” However, said Rowan, it’s not all about the EU Habitats Directive. Procedural assess- ment o such projects, and whether they can proceed, is aected by this, which has ramed new planning terms such as IROPI. “Obviously, IROPI will have more bearing on projects that raise environmental issues in the rst instance, such as wind and renewable energy devel- opment, extractive quarry ac- tivities, waste management processes, and inrastructur- al and commercial projects positioned within or close to designated European sites,” he said. “And while, ironically, the intention o the ramers o the EU Habitats Directive at a Eu- ropean level may have been to simpliy the environmental assessment procedures, in certain instances Ireland has managed to convert this into an additional level o assess- ment with little education to practitioners and decision makers on its intended unc- tion and implementation.” While there may be a lack o knowledge and experience at local government level, the baton is being carried by the planning proession, which, by its nature, takes a multi-disciplinary perspec- tive to any development proj- ects. For example, Rowan, al- ready a highly qualied town planner, secured an MSc in Ecological Assessment in di- rect consequence o the 2011 Act, in order to get a more thorough understanding o ecological assessment. “Recent legislative changes are no dierent, but it does indicate the increasing im- portance o environmen- tal matters and does dictate that greater consideration and weight will be given to evidence-based environ- mental assessment during the plan-making and deci- sion-making process by plan- ning authorities,” explained Rowan. In response to these de- velopments, HRA Planning adopts a holistic and inte- grated approach in advising on and leading plans and de- velopment projects. “We oer seamless in- house land use planning and environmental expertise,” said Rowan. “Environmen- tal issues that may infuence investment or the planning consent procedures are exam- ined in parallel with normal planning considerations in order to inorm and prepare robust development strategies and development proposals cognisant o legislation.” o date, this approach has been successully implement- ed by HRA Planning on behal o government departments, semi-state bodies and local authorities in support or specic area based plans and programmes, as well as on behal o the private sector in property investment and site-speciic development projects across various in- dustries, including quarries (many o which require a special remedial EIS), waste management and renewable energy. Gary Rowan is director of HRA Planning. His fellow directors in- clude Mary Hughes, current presi- dent of the Irish Planning Institute European legislation increases pressure on the planners For years, Ireland has mostly ignored environmental considerations when looking at planning. However, recent legal changes mean it will now have to sit up and take notice, writes Dave Boland Mary Hughes and Gary Rowan, directors of HRA Planning in Limerick Indaver’s Waste Legislation Guide Understanding Irish Waste Regulation Demonstrating itself as a true leader in the sustainable waste management  eld, Indaver Ireland has published its guide to Irish waste legislation. Packed with information regarding Irish hazardous & non-hazardous waste policy, the Guide is a must for those working within waste management, or a related  eld. The Guide also covers; regulations affecting the movement of waste, licensing & permitting of waste facilities and the regulations controlling various waste streams such as batteries, tyres, cars, POPs etc. To request a copy email: info@indaver.ie Or Call 1800 200 646 Leading the  eld in sustainable waste management S ustainability is more than just a buzz- word – it is the cor- nerstone or uture developments in Ireland and beyond. And just as construction and technol- ogy have evolved in recent times, so too has the process o planning, which has been led – sometimes willingly, and sometimes under duress – down a sustainable route designed to avoid many o the mistakes, both economic and environmental, that were made in the past. One o the most signicant impacts o sustainability on Irish planning has been the intermingling o various dis- ciplines, such as ecology and environmental assessment, into the planning mix. Tis, at least in theory, should cre- ate a more holistic approach to planning, but it also puts pressures on consultants to expand their knowledge base to include these disparate, but co-dependent areas. “In the past, planning was its own discipline; ecology was its own discipline; and the process o environmen- tal assessment was its own discipline,” explained Brian Keville, director o McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan Ltd, plan- ning and environmental con- sultants. “However, with the increas- ing number o environmental and EU legislation, coupled with the transposition into Irish legislation o EU Court o Justice rulings, it’s becom- ing impossible to separate planning rom ecology and rom environmental consid- erations.” his is where McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan has an ad- vantage over many o its com- petitors. A long-established Galway-based consultancy with operations nationwide, its highly qualied sta can address these intermingled – and what Keville describes as “almost inseparable” – subject areas in a coherent manner. Currently working on proj- ects rom Dublin to Galway and everywhere in between, the client list at McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan is evidence o the scale and quality o its work, with current key cli- ents including Enerco Energy Ltd, the OPW, Bord na Móna, Coillte, NUI Galway and the Department o Education. Its current main areas o activity are in renewable en- ergy and wind energy. It is responsible or the lead plan- ning (and plays a signicant environmental role) in the delivery o 600MW o Gate 3 wind energy projects. o give an idea o the scale o the project, Gate 3 is the current round o grid con- nection oers that will act as the delivery mechanism or the government’s target o generating 40 per cent o the state’s electricity rom renew- able sources by 2020. “Our in-house combination o planning, ecology and en- vironmental expertise is key to helping our clients secure one o the critical consents required to secure the plan- ning permission or, and to develop, a wind arm project,” explained Keville. “In act, we have played a lead role in se- curing planning permission or some o the largest per- mitted on-shore wind arms in the country.” In addition to the securing o planning permission, Mc - Carthy Keville O’Sullivan is now moving signicantly into project delivery, in tandem with its clients’ shit rom the planning and consent stage to construction and operation. Outside o wind energy production, the rm is also involved in projects around anaerobic digestion, where McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan has signicant experience in securing planning permission and undertaking environ- mental assessments across a range o projects, rom arm- scale projects to acilities with an annual throughput in ex- cess o 50,000 tonnes. It also has signicant expe- rience in biomass combined heat and power (CHP) projects and electricity inrastructure, including overhead electricity lines and underground cables, electricity substations and some larger scale inrastruc- tural projects. Additionally, the rm has moved into major projects in the food relie area, includ- ing providing consultancy services or the Lower Lee Flood Relie scheme, which is currently the largest and most high-prole food re- lie scheme being prepared in the country. McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan is sharing the en- vironmental team role with another consultancy, while it is also involved in providing services or the Bandon Flood Relie scheme and the Cross- molina Flood Relie Scheme. Crucially, the rm has ex- tended its portolio into pro- viding consultancy services or the Galway Harbour Ex- tension, which is the rst proj- ect in the state to go through the imperative reasons o overriding public interest process to justiy any poten- tial impacts on special areas o conservation and special protection areas under Ar- ticle 6(4) o the EU Habitats Directive. In addition, McCarthy Kev- ille O’Sullivan also provides services to what Keville de- scribed as “traditional” com- mercial development. “Tere has been no sig- nicant upturn in activity in terms o planning applica- tions and project commence- ments,” he said. “But we have seen a signicant demand or due diligence work on the part o prospective purchas- ers o sites and assets – and with an increase in property transactions, the demand or planning and environmental services will inevitably come.” In response to its current project list and any uture in- creases in planning and de- velopment, McCarthy Kev- ille O’Sullivan is in expansion mode, having increased sta- ing numbers rom 15 to 22 in the last 12 months. It is looking to expand its service oering in the near uture, with current vacancies or a urther ve sta across a range o disciplines, and has plans to extend its geographi- cal presence “to ensure we can attract the best proessionals to work or us, even i they may not want to relocate to Galway”, said Keville. A sector’s changing needs Ecological Consultants We provide specialist ecological advice and services to the planning and development sector. Our clients include developers (large and small), environmental and engineering consultancies, architects, engineers, planning consultancies, local authorities and public bodies. Key services include: • Appropriate Assessment • Ecological Impact Assessment • Specialist habitat and protected species advice (e.g. bats, otters, badgers) • Training in Appropriate Assessment and other areas For further information or to speak to us about your needs contact us at: Scott Cawley Ltd. 127 Lower Baggot Street Dublin 2 Tel: 353-1-6769815 Fax: 353-1-6769816 Email: info@scottcawley.com Website: www.scottcawley.com Wind energy: a sector in which McCarthy Keville O'Sullivan has put its extensive planning and environmental expertise to work The Sunday Business Post November 23, 2014 Focus On: Enviromental Planning & Services 33

More from SBPost

Page 1 / 11