Gormley to deal with 'lacuna' after ECJ ruling


The Irish Times has reported that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD is to bring measures to Cabinet to deal with a defect in legislation - because of which, developers have been allowed to carry out environmental impact assessments after construction work has begun on projects.

The move follows the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling against Ireland in a case involving the Derrybrien windfarm project in Co Galway, where a landslide killed 50,000 fish in 2003. The landslide also dislodged 450,000 cubic metres of peat over a 32km area, polluting a local river.

The ECJ said that a full and adequate environmental impact assessment should have been carried out before the project proceeded, but the Government had claimed the landslide was caused by poor construction work. The court ruled that retention permission can be applied only in exceptional circumstances and argued, in effect, that the application of Irish law was not sufficiently robust.

While Minister Gormley's action follows the ECJ ruling, his spokesman said that the issue - "was a lacuna which the Minister himself had identified on entering into office". The spokesman added that the Minister had asked his officials last autumn to bring forward measures to deal with the problem. He said that these measures, which would essentially ban 'retrospective' approval of an environmental impact assessment, would be brought to Government in the near future.

The ECJ ruling also affects a range of cases where the required environmental impact assessment was carried out after work began. The projects affected include quarry developments in Offaly, pig-rearing, peat-extraction and wood-processing businesses, as well as more traditional construction schemes.

The Government defended the case taken by the European Commission, which blamed Ireland's failure to properly implement a 1985 European directive laying out rules to follow on planning applications and environmental impact assessments for projects.

The Government told the European Court of Justice in February that weak planning rules were not to blame for the landslide at Derrybrien, Co Galway, which caused the environmental disaster.

Source - The Irish Times