Irish Times - 20-05-05
Minister for the Environment Dick Roche is to bring proposals to Government next Tuesday for new fast-track planning procedures for major infrastructural projects, including the Metro, incinerators, and road and aviation projects.
The proposals will be included in the long-awaited Infrastructure Bill which has been radically altered since last year when opposition within Government led to its withdrawal from Cabinet.
Instead of proposing the establishment of a new planning authority for major projects, the Bill has been watered down to allow for a separate division of An Bord Pleanála to deal with them.
Upwards of €20 billion in transport infrastructure projects, including the Metro, the interconnector rail tunnel under Dublin city centre, and a series of motorway projects around the State, will come under the new fast-track planning regime.
The projects will be announced in the coming weeks by Minister for Transport Martin Cullen as part of a 10-year transport plan.
The Department of Transport, which had been preparing separate planning legislation for the Metro, is now expected to drop this in favour of using the new fast-track system. However, planning on the proposed second airport terminal is expected to be already under way before the new planning division is in place.
The revised proposals are not expected to face objections from Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, whose opposition to the plans last year was seen as the key factor in their withdrawal from Cabinet.
He had objected to the inclusion of incinerators in the previous proposals, but is understood to view the revised Bill as reasonable.
Dublin City Council is planning an incinerator near Ringsend in the Minister's constituency, which he has publicly opposed.
While incinerators are still to be covered by the new division, the one proposed for Ringsend is not expected to come under its auspices because it will go to planning before the fast-track regime is in operation.
The council has selected a preferred bidder for the project, and this will go to the Department of the Environment for approval.
Plans for a fast-track planning board were announced nearly two years ago by then minister for the environment Martin Cullen.
Last November, in the wake of opposition within Cabinet, his successor, Mr Roche, announced he was withdrawing the original Bill from Government to review aspects of the legislation.
The Bill was radically changed to drop plans for a separate critical infrastructure board and to instead move towards the establishment of a permanent division within An Bord Pleanála for major projects.
The procedures for considering major projects are expected to be streamlined so that decisions on them can be speeded up.
© The Irish Times
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment