Print Print Page | A | A | A

Foreshore Legislation - The Foreshore Act 1933

The Foreshore Act 1933

Construction on land is controlled by local planning authorities and An Bord Pleanala (the planning appeals board) under the terms of the Planning Acts, 2000 -2006. Decisions are made in the context of a democratically agreed National Spatial Plan and regional planning guidelines. In general, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual planning application.

For the sea, there is no national spatial plan. Construction is controlled by one Minister, the Minister for the Marine*, who under the terms of the Foreshore Act 1933 has the power to issue Foreshore Licences for site investigation and Foreshore Leases for construction. The Foreshore Act 1933 is outdated and undemocratic. It was enacted 80 years ago, primarily, to control removal of beach material from the foreshore and was drafted long before large-scale construction at sea was envisaged.
*Note: In January 2010 responsibility for this area was transferred to Minister for the Environment.

The Foreshore Act, 1933 provides none of the democratic safeguards contained in the land-based Planning Acts 1963-2000. Decisions relating to the use of Irish seas and coastal waters are made on an ad hoc basis, by one Minister, without the context of democratically agreed spatial planning.

Under the Foreshore Act 1933:

  • The Minister has absolute discretion to accept or reject an application for a foreshore lease to permit construction in Irish coastal waters.
  • There is no statutory involvement of Local Authorities in the permitting process; their authority ends at the shoreline.
  • There is no public right of appeal against the Minister's decision
  • The Minister has authority to materially change the terms of Foreshore Leases once granted e.g. size & scale of development.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Certain developments on the foreshore are subject to the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1989 to 1999 and require the applicant to submit an Environmental Impact Statement to the permitting authority i.e. the Minister. In addition the EIS must be provided for comment to the bodies specified in the Foreshore (Environmental Impact Assessment ) Regulations 1990 (S.I.No 220).

“Environmental Impact Assessment can be defined as the process of identifying, predicting evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made”. (IAIA 1999) The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider environmental impacts before deciding whether to permit new projects.

Large impact developments are generally assessed by The Marine Licence Vetting Committee, (MLVC) a non statutory body of technical and scientific experts, appointed by the Department of the Marine. The MLVC assesses the EIS and advises the Minister regarding the appropriateness of issuing a foreshore lease.

The final decision rests with the Minister.