The challenge facing the Authority is to deliver a safe and efﬁcient network of national roads within the framework of sustainable development. The concept of sustainable development as adopted and applied by the Authority requires that “economic growth supports social progress while respecting the environment; that social policy underpins economic performance and that environmental policy is cost effective”. The Authority is conscious of the potential environmental impacts that can arise on individual road projects and through the delivery of the national roads programme in general. It is committed to implementing the programme in co-operation with local authorities and other relevant stakeholders in a manner that avoids or mitigates adverse effects on the environment taking account of relevant statutory requirements.
The procedures followed by the Authority and local authorities in the planning, design and implementation of road schemes are speciﬁed in the Roads Act, 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act, 2000, and in the National Roads Project Management Guidelines (NRPMG) which were issued in 2000. A key objective of the NRPMG Guidelines is to ensure the efﬁcient delivery of the national roads programme in a manner that minimises adverse environmental effects and respects all applicable legislation. The Guidelines place an emphasis on the identiﬁcation and avoidance of environmental impacts in the early stages of project planning and design prior to taking the project through the statutory procedures, including, where appropriate, the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, the Guidelines also make extensive provision for public consultation.
To support the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legal framework and the NRPMG, the Authority has put in place the above four-phase Strategy to facilitate further the integration of environmental issues into road scheme planning, construction and operation.
The four-phase Strategy incorporates all legislative requirements and, where feasible, national and international policy. Implementation of the Strategy requires the development of best practice technical guidance documents that are supported by research and adoption of best international practice to ensure that a harmonised approach is embraced for the assessment and mitigation of environmental issues in the development of the national road network. The core elements of the Strategy are dynamic and will run simultaneously with relevant stakeholder consultations forming part of the development of the strategy initiatives.
While the objective of the Strategy is to ensure that best practice is adopted for the integration of environmental issues into national road scheme development, the mitigation measures employed to ameliorate signiﬁcant environmental impacts on individual road schemes should be technically and economically feasible and deliverable so as to achieve the Strategy’s key objectives.
Environmental Assessment Guidelines to underpin the effectiveness of the National Roads Project Management Guidelines in integrating environmental issues into road scheme planning and development.
A series of best practice assessment guidance documents covering a range of environmental issues will be developed in order to underpin the effectiveness of the National Roads Project Management Guidelines in national road scheme planning and development. Examples of such documents include those dealing with Ecology, Noise and Vibration, Air Quality, Archaeology and Architecture.
Development of best practice guidelines to minimise construction impacts.
These guidelines will provide a best practice approach to addressing environmental impacts that are identiﬁed and assessed during the EIA process. Best practice approaches for the treatment of Badgers, Bats, Trees and Watercourse Crossings on national road schemes are typical examples of important issues currently addressed by the Authority.
Develop and implement an Environmental Operating Plan.
The environmental operating plan will be designed to ensure the implementation of the mitigating measures identiﬁed in the approved Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and compliance with other environmental obligations speciﬁed in the EIS for the construction phase of national road schemes. The Plan will also address impacts that potentially may arise during the construction phase and mitigation will be devised to address issues such as construction noise, water runoff, dust and waste arisings.
Post-EIA Evaluation Studies.
The Authority proposes to undertake post-EIA evaluation studies to assess actual impacts of national road schemes on different ecosystems and to validate and revise prediction methodologies used in the EIS to further reduce such impacts. The research will also assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures adopted to minimise signiﬁcant environmental impacts identiﬁed due to road scheme development. The initial phase will entail compiling and assessing EIS data predicted for various environmental issues and studies focusing on recently completed road schemes to establish the relationship between the predicted and actual data. Initial studies will address the noise and ecological components of the EIA process.