Elusive Quarries: A Failure of Regulation

Quarries are economically important. Particularly (but not only) in times of economic growth, there is a need for the raw materials provided by quarries for the construction industry. However, quarries – depending on their scale and location – can cause significant environmental impacts. It is therefore necessary to control quarrying activities in order to ensure environmental protection.

Quarries have been the subject of regulation under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts 1963-1999 and the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. Yet quarries have proved resistant to the type of regulation provided under those Acts. The central submission of this Article is that it is time to start afresh.

The purpose of this Article is not to provide a comprehensive account of the law relating to quarries. Several of the issues addressed in this Article could each provide material for an Article of greater length than this one.

Rather, this Article has three aims.

First, it seeks to draw together different aspects of planning law insofar as they apply to quarries. This will provide a structural account of complicated interlocking mechanisms of quarry regulation.

Second, the Article offers an analysis and critique of the complexity of this interlocking system of regulation. When one looks at the core substantive elements of the regulation of quarries, it becomes immediately apparent that the Oireachtas and the courts have created a system of labyrinthine complexity that does not serve the interests of either quarry operators or the environment. Third, the Article offers a proposal for reform which, it is contended, could provide a far simpler system of regulation that would benefit both the environment and quarry operators themselves.

[1] For an account of these competing concerns, see Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Quarries and Ancillary Activities: Guidelines for Planning Authorities (Stationery Office, 2004).

[2] Readers should refer themselves to the two excellent textbooks in this area: Yvonne Scannell, Environmental and Land Use Law (Thomson Round Hall, 2006) and Garrett Simons, Planning and Development Law (2nd ed, Thomson Round Hall, 2007). In addition, the volumes of the Irish Planning and Environmental Law Journal contain many articles providing detailed analysis of legal developments. Reference is made below to a number of specific articles.


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