Planning and development in marine, lacustrine, and riverine environments

Developments in marine, lacustrine and riverine environments all have the potential to impact on known or potential underwater cultural heritage, including shipwrecks. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is a statutory consultee under a number of Acts including the Foreshore Acts 1933 - 2011, the Dumping at Sea Act 1996, (and various amendments), various fisheries acts relating to aquaculture and Petroleum and the Other Minerals Development Act, 1960 (as amended 1990). This is in addition to the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) and the associated Planning and Development Regulations. Developments, whether they are large infrastructural projects or smaller localised developments, can have the potential to impact underwater cultural heritage.

As a statutory consultee, the National Monuments Service’s Underwater Archaeology Unit (on behalf of the Minister) assesses applications in relation to potential development impacts and, as appropriate, recommendations are forwarded to the relevant planning authority requesting that archaeological mitigation measures be attached as conditions on the grant of a planning permission, licence or permit to ensure the protection of the underwater cultural heritage. 

The type of archaeological mitigation recommended will vary depending on the scale and impact of the development and the archaeological potential of the location. It may include but is not limited to the following: pre-development desktop assessments, archaeological dive surveys; geophysical surveys; wading and metal detection surveys; underwater archaeological assessment and pre-development archaeological testing.

Archaeological excavation or archaeological monitoring during the course of the proposed works may also be required where it is known that archaeology is present or likely to be present and when new discoveries are made. Where there are known sites or areas of high archaeological potential, however, avoidance and/or preservation in situ may be the preferred option. In this regard, planning applicants are required to engage the services of a suitably qualified and suitably experienced private sector archaeologist or archaeological company to implement the archaeological recommendations relating to a planning application or as a condition of any planning permission granted.

If a development is planned for an area of reclaimed land or in a marine, riverine or lacustrine environment, it is advisable that you first consult the Wreck Viewer (WIID) and downloadable list of wrecks to ensure that the developer/contractor is aware of the archaeological potential of the area where the proposed development is to be located, i.e. at the site of a known or potential wreck site. If a proposed development is located in an area where wrecks are known to exist or are thought to be located then the developer should contact the National Monuments Service seeking advice with regard to the appropriate course of action so as to ensure wrecks or associated wreck material are not negatively impacted. Additionally, the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) should also be consulted to see if the proposed development is located near to or at a Recorded Monument, National Monument or World Heritage Site. Further information can be obtained from the Archaeology and the Planning Process section of this website.

Note on Developments in Areas of Reclaimed Land

Areas along river channels, estuaries, lake shores and large swathes of the coastline have been reclaimed over the centuries. These areas have potential to retain the remains of vessels that were lost, abandoned or wrecked on ancient seabed, shorelines or earlier water courses prior to the reclamation works being carried out. Other features of archaeological importance may survive in areas of reclaimed land, such as jetties, quay structures, tidal mills and fish traps. In areas of reclaimed land where there is potential to find shipwrecks, associated artefacts and other site types there will be a need for an appropriate level of archaeological assessment in advance of proposed developments.