The Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act 2021 provides for the establishment of a new state agency, to be known as the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), which will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area, in early 2023.

This important MAP legislation was passed by both houses in the Irish legislature in late December 2021, and the President signed it into law on 23 December 2021

MARA will be responsible for:

  1. the granting of all Maritime Area Consents, or MACs, for the maritime area
  2. marine licensing for specified activities
  3. compliance and enforcement of MACs, licences and offshore development consents
  4. administration of the Foreshore consent portfolio of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The new regulatory authority, which will be based in Wexford, will be responsible for assessing applications for consents in the maritime area prior to projects applying for planning permission, for example, offshore wind projects, water and waste water infrastructure, bridges, marinas, coastal protection works, flood relief works and undersea telecommunications cables and power interconnectors.

MARA’s regulatory role will also encompass granting licences for activities in the maritime area (including environmental surveys) and ensuring robust compliance through enforcement measures.

MARA will operate under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage but will be independent of the department in the performance of its functions.

Its importance has been emphasised by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien, “As an island nation, our seas and our ocean are absolutely crucial for Ireland. Our maritime area is seven times the size of our landmass, and it supports our economy, inward and outward trade, our energy supply and communications systems – as well as our climate, our environment, our cultural traditions and heritage, our health and well-being.

“The Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 established in law a new marine planning system underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Policy Statement, guided by the National Marine Planning Framework. This legislation puts in place a comprehensive and coherent planning system for our entire Maritime Area.”

The MAP Act also provides for challenge by way of judicial review both of decisions of the Minister/MARA regarding MAC applications and licences, and decisions of An Bord Pleanala to grant permission to an offshore development. This process is subject to the challenger first demonstrating “substantial grounds” and a “sufficient interest” and taking the challenge in the High Court within 8 weeks of the decision.

The MAP Act represents an integral component if Ireland is to achieve its ambitious 80% renewable electricity target, as set out in the Government’s Climate Action Plan, as updated in 2021.

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website, or email