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Foreshore Legislation - The Foreshore

What is the foreshore?

The foreshore of Ireland is classed as the land and seabed between the high water mark of ordinary or medium tides and the 12-mile limit of the territorial seas: (12 nautical miles equals approximately 22.24 km).

The area covered is 39,000 square kilometres or equivalent to approximately 57% of the landmass of the Republic of Ireland. Over 60% of the population lives within 10km of the coast and this percentage is increasing. As the population continues to grow, additional pressures are placed on the coastal zone.

The foreshore is a unique and important, environmentally sensitive resource which makes a major contribution to the life of the nation, supporting various economic activities and recreational uses.

Foreshore Acts

The Foreshore Act 1933 is the primary legislation governing development on the foreshore. The Act requires that a foreshore lease or licence must be obtained from the Minister for the Marine before undertaking any works or placing structures or material on, (or for the occupation of, or removal of material from), State owned foreshore.

The Foreshore Acts, cited collectively as the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2005, comprise the following:

  • Foreshore Act 1933 (the primary legislation)
  • Foreshore Amendment Act 1992
  • Section 5 of the Fisheries (Foreshore Amendment Act 1998)
  • Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 (part 5)
  • Maritime Safety Act 2005


Foreshore leases are granted under The Acts for the erection of long term structures (piers, marinas, bridges, offshore wind farms, etc). Essentially a Foreshore Lease is similar to planning permission.

Foreshore licences are granted for other works (e.g. laying of pipes and cables) and purposes (e.g. aquaculture). Foreshore licences are also granted, generally for four years, for initial site investigation for offshore renewable energy. During this time the applicant may carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to determine site suitability. Following site investigation, the applicant may then apply to the Minister for a foreshore lease to develop and operate the project.

Leases and licences are granted subject to the payment of fees. The usual duration of a foreshore lease is 35 years.

Further information:

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (Coastal Zone Management Division) set out General Guidance Notes explaining the above requirements: Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2003 – General Guidance Notes, (Department of Agriculture Fisheries & Food, May 2008). (This document is no longer available online. March, 2012).