What are the Solar Safeguarding Zones in the Republic of Ireland?
Two new regulations came into effect in the Republic of Ireland on the 5th of October 2022, the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 3) Regulations 2022 and the Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022 . These regulations provide information regarding exemptions to planning for rooftop solar developments in the Republic of Ireland.
The first regulation, the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 3) Regulations 2022, concerns exempted developments and applies certain classes of exemption to the following: houses, industrial, light industrial and business premises, agricultural, apartments, educational building, health centre or hospital, recreational or sports facility, place of worship, community facility or centre, library and certain statutory undertaker sites.
The Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022 apply to rooftop solar developments located within defined Solar Safeguarding Zone (SSZs). The regulations intend to provide appropriate safeguarding for aviation stakeholders by applying a rooftop solar size limit to 43 SSZs. In developing the Solar Planning Exemptions and SSZs, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage consulted with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the Department of Defence and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to consider the impact of glint and glare from rooftop solar development upon aviation receptors.
Rooftop solar developments located within the SSZs are limited to 300 square metres for each rooftop within a proposed development. Whilst developers can seek planning permission for rooftop solar developments exceeding 300 square metres, applicants are required to contact the local planning authority to seek further advice. Outside of the SSZs, there are no limitations on the size of a rooftop solar development. Rooftop solar developments on houses do not have any limitations on size, whether they are located within the SSZs or not.
On the 29th of September 2022, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage for the Republic of Ireland met to discuss the proposed regulation regarding Solar Safeguarding Zones:
“…in light of the potential threat to aviation safety arising from increased solar development, 43 solar safeguarding zones have been identified, in consultation with the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, within which an increased 300 sq. m rooftop limit will now apply to all classes of development other than houses. It will be open to anyone seeking to avail of a larger rooftop solar installation within a solar safeguarding zone than the 300 sq. m limitation to apply for planning permission…the Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022, are the supplementary supporting regulations that set out the 43 solar safeguarding zones, which are required to address aviation safety concerns in respect of glint and glare impacts from solar panels. The solar safeguarding zones are outlined both on maps and by reference to townlands in county councils and local electoral divisions in city councils. A rooftop limit will apply in solar safeguarding zones which extend outwards in a radial manner 5 km from airports and 3 km from smaller aerodromes, certain military barracks and emergency helipads.” – Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke)
They form a very important part of our climate action plan, as he mentioned, and a step towards decarbonisation. I also acknowledge the work of his officials and the negotiation by the IAA to increase the square metres in the zones that were designated for glint and glare…The measures brought here today remove an unnecessary complexity in trying to put solar panels on roofs, where up to this point it was necessary to go for planning permission, with the costs and hassle involved with that. We remove that if we agree these regulations. That is a very important step and a step toward the decarbonisation of energy in this country, which we need to do quickly, rapidly and at scale. – Steven Matthews, Green Party. 
Where are the safeguarding zones?
The Solar Safeguarding Zones (SSZs) apply to :
- 10 SSZs with 5km zones (airports)
- 33 SSZs with 3km zones (aerodromes/military barracks/hospital helicopter land sites).
The safeguarding zones can be found on the myplan.ie website and a google earth file can be accessed here. An aerial image of all the SSZs (yellow circles) and the SSZ for Dublin Airport Solar Safeguarding Zone is shown in the images below.
Figure 1: Solar Safeguarding Zones (Yellow Circles) – Rooftop Solar in the Republic of Ireland. 
Figure 2: Dublin Airport Solar Safeguarding Zone. 
Solar Exemptions and Safeguarding Zones in the Republic of Ireland help provide clarity to developers regarding the size limitation for rooftop solar developments within close proximity to aviation stakeholders. The limitation at 300 sqm does not necessarily mean that a rooftop solar development bigger than this cannot proceed within the SSZs; however, it is possible that a glint and glare assessment will be required following consultation with the local planning authority.
The regulations apply to rooftop solar developments only. Depending on the proximity, it remains common for ground-mounted solar developments to require a glint and glare assessment with respect to aviation safety, residential amenity, road safety, and railway operations and infrastructure. For reference, within the UK, concerns are most often raised for solar developments within 10km of a licensed airport. Assessment of unlicensed aerodromes can also be requested; however, they are typically less closely safeguarded than licensed aerodromes.
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