Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee: PRE/ACCC/C/2023/198 Ireland

1. This communication arises from a failure by Ireland to comply with Articles 5, (in particular 5(2), 5(2)(a), 5(3)(d)), 6(3), 9(4) and 3(9) of the Convention by:
a. failing to adopt general measures in compliance with Article 5. In particular it is alleged that the Irish legislation1 giving general effect to Article 5 (including via transposition of Article 7 of the AIE Directive 2 ) is incomplete since it doesn’t oblige public authorities to actively publish environmental information on the internet or at all.
b. failing to ensure that environmental information relating to the regulation of development and land use is actively published on the internet in compliance with Article 5,
c. providing that time limits for public participation under Article 6 are calculated from the date of the application and not from the date when the public concerned is given notice and can effectively access the application file;

d. providing that the time limits to bring judicial review proceedings are calculated from the date of the decision and not from the date when the public and/or public concerned are given notice and/or can access all of the documents which contain the essence of
the decision; and
e. discriminating based on domicile and for legal persons, their registered seat or an effective centre of its activities, by providing, in many cases, access only to paper copies of information in the offices of public authorities.

DocumentStatusDate received
posted by the secretariat
Annex 1: Request for information about active dissemination policy
Annex 2: Compilation of responses
Annex 3: Summary of responses
Annex 4: Request for information on electronic publication of Planning Register
Annex 5: Summary of responses
Annex 6: Types of Planning Application documents published 
Annex 7: Meath Planning Portal screenshot
Annex 8: Request for information on compliance and enforcement
Annex 9: Compilation of responses 
Annex 10: Summary of responses
Annex 11: Steps in planning permission procedure 
Annex 12: Screenshot from Meath Portal
Annex 13: Time to access ABP files

Relies on UK case, the same or similar non-compliance is in fact systemic in the Irish planning system.

This communication is limited to issues arising from the Irish planning system, the communicants have no doubt that similar issues arise in other areas in Ireland, for example in forestry, waste management, wastewater, marine, enforcement etc

Ireland has not adopted any measures which ensure that generally there is effective access to environmental information and/or that environmental information progressively becomes available in electronic format. This can be seen from the text of Ireland’s 2021 Implementation Report which does not identify any such general obligation

While it is accepted that there may be specific legislation on active dissemination for certain categories of environmental information9, the general obligations imposed on public authorities fall far short of what is required by Article 5

The communicants submitted a request to all 31 local authorities asking them to identify which categories of information from the planning register were available online and where information was excluded either permanently or temporarily from online publication, documentation recording the legal basis for the exclusion. The communicants provided an Excel template to record the responses in a standard format. A copy of the request is included at Annex 4 and a spreadsheet summarizing the responses at Annex 5. (see above for Annex 4 and 5)

Regrettably five planning authorities refused to provide a response to the request at all.

An analysis of the information provided by those that did respond indicates that large numbers of the 30 categories of information required to be maintained on the planning register are not made available online and that where certain information is restricted, no legal basis under Article 4 has been identified for the limitation on what is published