As part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has a role in relation to development proposals – both on land and offshore, and across various sectors – where nature conservation issues and concerns arise. This role is primarily advisory, whether in the context of statutory notifications or referrals to the Minister by various consent authorities, or in the context of non-statutory pre-application consultations received. These development proposals, known collectively as development applications, are managed centrally by the Department’s Development Applications Unit (DAU).
Please note that the Minister has other statutory functions that are managed separately by the individual heritage sections of the Department in relation to certain notification, consent or licence requirements and the conservation and protection of certain natural and built heritage features.
Please see below for further information about the role of the Minister and about consulting or engaging with NPWS about development applications.
- What is meant by development applications
- The role of the Minister in relation to development applications
- What is DAU?
- Where to send development applications
- Statutory notifications and referrals
- What to send DAU
- Public authority plans and projects and appropriate assessment
- Pre-application consultation/engagement
Development applications’ is a collective term used by the Department to include the full spectrum of plans, programmes and applications for development consent, as well as pre-application consultations and engagements relating to planning matters that are managed by the Development Applications Unit (DAU) on behalf of the Minister. They include:
- formal applications and consultations, including statutory notifications and referrals regarding:
- applications for development consent – planning applications, forestry applications, EPA licensing, etc.;
- plans and programmes at formal assessment and publication stages – Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) scoping, draft plans on public display, etc.;
- Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) scoping consultations.
- public authority own plans and projects requiring appropriate assessment;
- informal consultations and engagements, typically at non-statutory or pre-application stage, including:
- pre-application consultations;
- informal scoping requests;
- requests for consultation meetings;
Note that development applications do not include applications for ministerial consent (e.g. Activities Requiring Consent) or licences under wildlife legislation.
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has a formal role as a statutory consultee in a variety of legislative contexts which typically govern the making of plans and programmes, the regulation of projects, and the associated environmental assessments of these (where required) across the range of development and land use sectors (e.g. planning, transport, energy, agriculture, forestry, etc.). The Minister’s role as a statutory consultee is specified in the relevant regulating legislation, and is variously termed ‘prescribed authority’, ‘specified body’, ‘environmental authority’ or ‘consultation body’. In any such capacity, the Minister may make submissions or observations to assist the responsible authority in carrying out its functions, including consent functions, in compliance with various legislative and administrative requirements with respect to the conservation, protection and preservation of natural and built heritage.
If the Minister does not engage with or respond to a particular development application, no inference should be drawn from this that the Department is satisfied or otherwise with the project, plan or programme, or that natural heritage matters are not material considerations.
The Minister also has a role in providing advice and guidance in relation to natural and built heritage matters in the context of plans, programmes and projects under consideration by individuals and authorities, and any environmental assessments required. In addition, the data holdings and publications of the Department have widespread application in land use planning, project design and environmental assessments.
The Development Applications Unit (DAU) is a section of the Department which manages and co-ordinates the registration, processing and internal circulation of various development applications received by the Minister, and the subsequent issuing of submissions or observations, if any.
Development applications received by DAU are registered and disseminated to the professional heritage services of the Department, including NPWS, for processing in line with the practices and priorities of the various heritage sections. Case reference numbers are allocated where necessary for administrative purposes.
DAU interacts with relevant consent authorities in relation to statutory notifications and referrals on an administrative and procedural basis, and is typically a first point of contact for consultations and queries, including requests for meetings.
DAU engages with development application processes, and with authorities and applicants up to the point where a plan, programme or project has been made, adopted, or given a final grant of permission. Post-consent matters are not processed by DAU, e.g. delivery of mitigation measures, the undertaking of monitoring or auditing, and the submission and review of associated reports. The relevant heritage section(s), should be consulted directly, where necessary.
Development applications should be sent electronically to email@example.com, or if electronic referral is not possible, by post to:
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
c/o The Manager, Development Applications Unit
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
The Minister receives statutory notifications or referrals from a range of consent and plan-making authorities in line with a variety of legislative provisions that apply to the development applications in question, and to any statutory environmental assessments required,i.e. SEA, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and appropriate assessment (AA). These are among the processes which exist to ensure that nature conservation sites, biodiversity, and the environment are conserved and safeguarded by relevant authorities in line with legislative requirements.
All government departments and authorities should familiarise themselves with the notification obligations they have under applicable legislation, and should be aware that this may include SEA and EIA legislation, and Regulation 42 of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011, in the case of certain public authority plans and projects requiring appropriate assessment. The notifications, referrals or consultations may be either discretionary or obligatory, and it is the responsibility of the authority in question to determine which development applications to notify to the Minister. In certain cases, DAU seeks the co-operation of authorities in identifying the heritage section(s) and/or region of relevance to the notification or referral.
Consultation procedures may exist or be developed and agreed with one or more of the heritage sections of the Department to the benefit of both parties (e.g. as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or ‘Regulation 40’ agreement).
The Department will process development applications and endeavour to provide observations or submissions. If the Minister does not engage with or respond to a particular development application, no inference should be drawn from this that the Department is satisfied or otherwise with the project, plan or programme, or that natural or built heritage matters are not material considerations.
Statutory notifications or referrals to DAU must be accompanied by a cover letter or consultation notice from the relevant authority, or from the applicant, where this is required by legislation (e.g. Strategic Infrastructure Development cases). In each case, the authority (or applicant) should specify the legislation:
· under which the notification or consultation with the Minister is occurring;
· under which the development application is being considered by the authority;
· under which the environmental assessment obligations, including screening obligations, are being considered, as necessary.
Applicable deadlines should be specified.
All necessary details of the development application, and relevant associated documentation, must be supplied to the Department with the notification or referral, and in a suitable format.
Any notifications or consultations received without a cover letter or consultation notice, and any unsolicited material received directly from applicants or their agents are likely to be returned and clarification sought. This may mean that the consultation or notification obligations of an authority are not met, or that delays occur.
(Under Regulation 42 of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011)
In the case of public authority plans or projects that require an appropriate assessment and which are not regulated by planning legislation, there is an obligation to consult the Minister in accordance with Regulation 42(9) of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011. The terms, ‘public authority’, ‘plan’ and ‘project’, are defined in Part 1, Regulation 2(1) these Regulations. This obligation may be in addition to other notification or consultation obligations the authority has. Such a consultation should be accompanied by a formal notification or cover letter from the relevant public authority. This should specify the legislative provisions under which the Natura Impact Statement (NIS) is submitted, and under which the plan or project is being regulated. Following the submission of the NIS, there is a specified timeline of six weeks before which an appropriate assessment may not be concluded, unless by prior agreement with the Minister.
An authority or prospective applicant intending to make a plan or apply for permission for a project or development may consult or engage with the heritage sections of this Department via DAU. Pre-application consultations may either be discretionary or have a statutory basis, e.g. Strategic Infrastructure or Strategic Housing Developments, or SEA scoping consultations in the case of the latter. The Department will endeavour to provide pre-application observations and advice in line with our priorities, subject, on occasion, to resource limitations. At present, in the case of discretionary consultations by private individuals or entities, or their agents, DAU can usually only accept pre-application consultations under the planning legislation.
In general, DAU will acknowledge receipt of the consultation, provide a case reference number, and advise on the operational deadline; the normal target turnaround for pre-application and other general consultations is six weeks from the date of receipt of all material needed to process the consultation.
Applications for licences or ministerial consent under wildlife legislation should not be sent to DAU.
If you wish to consult or engage with NPWS at pre-application stage, please do so via DAU in the first instance. Before contacting DAU, you should consult and make use of the following:
- available data, information and reports published by NPWS;
- other data on habitats and species that may be requested from NPWS – data request form [provide link];
- available published guidance;
- advice of the relevant consent/competent authority;
- plan level mitigation that may apply for a project type and/or in a particular setting.
To support your consultation, the following should be provided at a minimum:
- details of the entities and/or authorities involved, and of their consultants, agents, etc., including relevant contact details;
- description of plan, project or proposal, including rationale;
- maps/drawings showing location, layout, pertinent features, etc.;
- details of what material you have consulted and used, and of what specific additional information you require;
- details of what assessments are required and what legislation will apply, where known;
- details of consultations with and/or advice from the relevant authority, notably in relation to ecological and environmental assessments that are required, and the scope of these;
- details of specific advice being sought which is not publicly or readily available elsewhere.
Please ensure there is co-ordination between the authority or prospective applicant, and the consultants or agents, in relation to pre-application consultations, for efficiency and consistency. If a meeting is being sought, please consider the stage at which it would be most beneficial to the plan or project team. The case reference number allocated by DAU should be quoted in all consultations with the Department.
At pre-application stage, please do not send us:
- draft EIS or NIS reports;
- queries pertaining to another authority’s legislation or procedures;
- requests for screening opinions or determinations, whether in relation to appropriate assessment, EIA or SEA;
- requests for information and advice which is already publicly or readily available;
- other non-statutory reports for review or approval.
Please note that, if the Minister/Department does not engage with or respond to a particular pre-application consultation, no inference should be drawn from this that the Department is satisfied or otherwise with the project, plan or programme, or that natural or built heritage matters are not material considerations.
Please also note that, where submissions are made or advice is given by the Department as part of a pre-application consultation, this is without prejudice and will not bind the Minister and the Department in respect of any future decisions or actions taken.
Application and consent stage:
It is not expected that applicants will consult the Department directly during application and consent stages, or supply unsolicited information, unless applicants are required by law to do so. Interactions at those stages are between the relevant consent or competent authority and the Department.
Where permission is granted for a project, there is a duty to comply fully with the grant of permission, including all conditions and mitigation measures that apply. Similar duties exist where a plan is adopted. The Department does not have a direct role in ensuring compliance, and cannot agree or approve changes or alterations to any plan or project, or associated conditions or mitigation measures, after approval by another authority. Any reports or complaints about possible non-compliance received will be passed on to the relevant authority/authorities for information and attention, as will any issues or concerns noticed by staff of the Department.
 Regulation 40 of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011