Planning exemptions introduced for renewable energy and telecommunications delivery

Planning exemptions introduced for renewable energy and telecommunications delivery

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, has notified local authorities of changes she is making to planning regulations to streamline the carrying out of certain works.

The changes had been presented by the Minister for discussion with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, relate to four main areas, namely

  • Charging points for electric vehicles
  • Use of existing telecommunications infrastructure
  • Works to septic tanks arising from water services authority inspections
  • Works coming under consent systems under the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine

As a result of the changes made by the Minister, planning regulations now therefore provide an explicit exemption from the requirement to obtain planning permission for the installation of electric charging points, subject to certain conditions and limitations in relation to size and advertising, including that the size of any such charging point shall not exceed 3 metres, or 0.5 cubic metres when located on a public road. An amendment has also been included to clarify that an existing exemption for a substation under that Class excludes a charging point for electric vehicles but includes mini-pillars.

Planning regulations also now include important exemptions for the delivery of telecommunications infrastructure through the use of existing electricity infrastructure. The newly amended Class 31 in the attached Regulations thus clarifies that any body authorised to provide a telecommunications service can use existing poles to carry fibre optic or similar telecommunications cable (or erect new poles for that purpose), and can also attach small brackets or devices – subject to size limitations –  containing spare rolled up cable.

The new regulations also provide an exemption for remedial works to septic tanks / treatment systems.  Where a water services authority receives notification that a treatment system is causing or is likely to cause a risk to human health or the environment, the water services authority must issue an advisory notice to the owner within 21 days.  The notice will direct the owner to take the necessary remediation measures and will specify a timeframe for completion of those measures.  Failure to comply with the provisions of an advisory notice within the specified timeframe will be an offence.

Accordingly, the proposed exemption provides that remedial works carried out in compliance with an advisory notice issued by the water services authority are exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission.

The final amendment, relating to works under other consent systems (under the remit of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine), is a technical change which reinstates a previous exemption from planning for certain works (consent under other systems will still be required).

The Minister described the changes as “significant amendments in the context of Ireland’s domestic and international commitments in relation to renewable energy uptake and, in particular, in facilitating the roll-out of a national charging base for electric vehicles as well as the roll out of a first class telecommunications infrastructure. I intend to keep planning exemptions under review to seek to reduce avoidable administrative or regulatory burden where possible and to ensure they remain in alignment with key national policy objectives.  Of course, in so doing it is essential to maintain the right balance between the right of the public to comment and input into decisions in relation to developments that may affect them, and the necessity not to unduly burden developers by making them go through a consent process where this may not be necessary”

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