15.3 - Environmental Assessment - EIA/AA/Ecological Impact Assessment

15.3.1 Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) consider whether development projects either alone or in combination are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, set out the mandatory thresholds for specified classes of development in which the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment applies. An EIA may need to be carried out even if the development is below the mandatory thresholds as set out in the regulations based on the potential impact on the environment.

The process involves the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) by the applicant and an examination and analysis of the EIAR and other relevant information leading to a reasoned conclusion by the competent authority (Dublin City Council) on the likely significant effects of the proposed development on the environment.

All planning applications will undergo EIA Screening by the competent authority as part of the planning application process. An EIA Screening Statement should be submitted with all applications. For further guidance see OPR Practice Note PN02 – Environmental Impact Assessment Screening see https://www.opr.ie/planning-practice/.

To facilitate the proper assessment of a development proposal in circumstances where it is considered that a proposed development would be likely to have a significant effect on the environment, due to the nature, scale or location of the proposal, Dublin City Council will require the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended.

15.3.2 Appropriate Assessment

Appropriate Assessment (AA) under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive considers whether or not a proposed plan or project would adversely affect the integrity of a European Site.

With introduction of the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC and the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) came the obligation to establish the Natura 2000 network of sites of highest biodiversity importance for rare and threatened habitats and species across the EU. In Ireland, the Natura 2000 network of European sites comprises Special Areas of Conservation (including candidate SACs), and Special Protection Areas (including proposed SPAs).

The aim of both directives is to maintain and, where necessary, restore the favourable conservation status of natural habitats and species across Europe, and in this way, to contribute to sustainable development and to promote the maintenance of Europe’s biodiversity.

Appropriate Assessment (AA) is a key protection mechanism for the relevant sites and species, whereby it is a requirement to consider the potential nature conservation implications of any plan or project on the Natura 2000 site network before any decision is made to allow that plan or project to proceed. AA is a focused and detailed impact assessment of the implications of a plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans and projects, on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site in view of its conservation objectives.

In determining whether AA is required, an AA Screening Statement is firstly prepared. The screening statement assesses, in view of best scientific knowledge, whether a proposed plan or project, individually or in combination with another plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a European Site. If it is determined through the screening process that significant effects are likely, then a Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment, which includes a Natura Impact Assessment, is required.

All applications will be screened for AA by the competent authority (Dublin City Council) as part of the planning process. Applicants are however, required to carry out a screening statement and subsequent Stage 2 assessment (if necessary) for inclusion with the planning application.

Requirements for compliance with AA are set out in the Planning and Development Act, 2000 (as amended). ‘Appropriate Assessment of Plans and Projects in Ireland – Guidance for Planning Authorities’ (2009)’, jointly prepared by National Parks and Wildlife Service and Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, provides more detailed guidance on AA and is available to view at the following link: https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2009_AA_Guidance.pdf.

Guidance is also provided in the OPR Practice Note PN01 – Appropriate Assessment Screening for Development Management – see https://www.opr.ie/planning-practice/.

The European Commission has also published guidance on Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, including on Appropriate Assessment Screening. Please see the guidance documents: Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites (November 2001) and Managing Natura 2000 sites: The provisions of Article 6 of the ‘Habitats’ Directive (2018). Both available at this link: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/management/guidance_en.htm

15.3.3 Ecological Impact Assessment

An Ecological Impact Assessment should be carried out for all developments within or adjacent to any sensitive habitat, ecological corridor, specific landscape character area or which has the potential to contain protected habitats or species.

The Planning Authority may request an Ecological Impact Assessment to be submitted as part of the planning application for any other development considered ecologically sensitive (see also policy GI14, Chapter 10).