Planning updates September

Planning team year in review

Our Planning team had a busy year providing planning expertise on diverse project types and scales for the public and private sectors. Our team consists of three project units which focus on:

  • Renewables
  • Housing and Public Infrastructure
  • Commercial and Industrial

As the year ends, our Planning team reflects on the opportunities we had to provide for our clients as a leading planning consultancy and part of the MKO team. We look forward to working with you to meet your planning needs next year and into the future. We want to highlight a few of the many successful projects our team has been pleased to participate in throughout 2023.

University of Galway Learning Commons

Consisting of a six-storey stepped building, the University of Galway new Learning Commons Facility. The Learning Commons features an automated book storage and retrieval system known as a “Book Bot” facility, a catering area, an exhibition space and a Learning Success Hub, individual and group study areas, a teaching and learning space and office space and ancillary spaces. In addition, external high-quality amenity space is provided to help further activate and rejuvenate the northern portion of the campus. The building puts the University of Galway on the cutting edge of creating the learning and study spaces of the future, powered by today’s most exciting and innovative technologies. MKO has and will continue to play a vital role in delivering this project as the planning and environmental consultant.

Oweninny Synchronous Condenser

The permitted Oweninny Synchronous Condenser Facility, located at Oweninny, Co Mayo, will provide a grid services facility which will deliver inertia to stabilise grid performance by catching and recovering a falling frequency event on the network in the Connacht region. It is a technology which EirGrid is supporting to deliver on strategic objectives to achieve the security of energy supply and decarbonisation of the electricity sector in Ireland. Synchronous condensers can facilitate the reduction of carbon-intensive conventional power generating plants currently required on the Irish power system for system stability. The synchronous condenser at Oweninny will play an essential role in facilitating the penetration of renewables onto the grid, contributing to the energy transition and Bord na Móna’s ‘Brown to Green’ strategy. Mayo County Council issued a final grant of permission for this project in November 2023.


American MedTech company Dexcom was granted planning permission for a new facility in Athenry, Co. Galway in October this year. Dexcom is a global leader in providing real-time continuous glucose monitoring for diabetic people.
Dexcom was granted permission for a 4-no. storey medical device manufacturing facility to include warehousing, production, office space, and an on-site restaurant. This development is expected to provide up to 500 jobs during construction and up to 1,000 full-time high-tech jobs over the next five years, with an investment by Dexcom estimated at €300 million over that period.

MKO provided environmental and planning services for this planning application and is delighted to welcome Dexcom as a neighbour in Co. Galway in the future.

Meissner Grand Opening

Meissner Filtration Products celebrated the official grand opening of its manufacturing facility in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, earlier this year in October. The facility produces therapeutic manufacturing systems at its new almost 4000 m² facility and is the company’s first manufacturing facility in Europe.

MKO welcomes this exciting news, which currently provides 90 jobs in the Castlebar area and congratulates Meissner on its opening. MKO provided planning and environmental services to Meissner throughout the planning process.

Planning updates

Planning outlook for 2024

While 2023 has been an exciting, if sometimes challenging, year for planning across the board, 2024 is shaping up to be much bigger. We have rounded up what we expect to be some of the planning issues heading into next year.

The Planning and Development Bill 2023

The much-reported 700-page bill was published last month but still has a long way to go before it is law. Our LinkedIn post contains some of the key provisions of the draft Bill. As of the writing of this newsletter, the Bill currently remains at stage two of eleven in the legislative process and is before the Dáil, with debate already occurring on November 30th. In line with this, we expect the bill to be passed in Q1 of 2024 at the earliest, with phased implementation and drafting of the regulations occurring from there. In the meantime, expect heavy lobbying and intense debate within the Oireachtas regarding the content of the Bill.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Announced on the 10th November, the Fifth Call for Category 1 Applications to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is open. Applications are due by 12PM on Thursday 8th of February 2024. The fund is designed to support coordinated and integrated projects between government departments, State agencies, local authorities, other public bodies, communities and, where appropriate, philanthropic funders and/or the private sector, which will impact sustainable economic and social development in rural areas. Projects must be led by a Local Authority.

An Bord Pleanála status

The timeline for developments to be decided through An Bord Pleanála (the Board) is expected to continue into 2024 as there is still a hefty backlog of cases, including planning appeals, Residential Zoned Land Tax appeals and applications made directly to the board, including strategic development. The timeline for An Bord Pleanála to make decisions has more than doubled since 2019, when the appeal process lasted an average of about 25 weeks, whereas they currently take an average of 47 weeks. Though it’s currently a lengthy process, MKO expectations are that headway is being made and will continue as the backlog of cases is worked through.

The full Annual Report and statistics for 2023 will be published next year.

2024 is also expected to see the rebranding from An Bord Pleanála to An Coimisiún Pleanála as the new Planning and Development Bill 2023 moves forward.

Draft Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines

The Draft Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines were published in Autumn this year, opening the door to more diverse and sustainable housing types in our urban and rural settlements. The finalised version was due to be published in October of this year but has yet to be released. The most recent update from the Department, as of the time of writing, indicated that they are currently finalising the guidelines, and the new expected publication date is before the end of Q4 2023, subject to the completion of associated environmental technical reviews.

Renewables and the climate

It has been a headline year for renewables in Ireland, Europe, and worldwide, and there is little sign of a deceleration in that trend. Here in Ireland, the Marine Planning system is finding its feet, with the first of many Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) being proposed for the South Coast. At the same time, The National Energy Security Framework has been updated to account for Ireland’s changing energy needs. In particular, the updates reflect the challenges posed by the war in Ukraine and the necessity to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels by switching to renewables. The development of renewable energy projects is rapidly increasing, particularly solar development. The first Irish solar farm connected to the national grid in May 2022, and a further 16 have been connected since then. The Irish Solar Energy Association published planning guidelines for solar farm delivery in November to provide clarity as the level of development is expected to continue. At the local level, the Local Authorities are in the process of consulting the public on and drafting their Climate Action Plans, which must be passed by February 2024.

The UK and Germany are considering the development of a 400-mile hydrogen pipeline under the North Sea. With Germany expecting to purchase 70% of its hydrogen from abroad to meet its climate goals and fuel its difficult-to-electrify industries, the opportunities to meet this demand are huge in Ireland and the UK. Not to be outdone, in the US, the turbines have just arrived and are being installed at what will be New York’s first offshore wind farm, with the ability to generate 130 MW of power.

Also, in the US, a plant dedicated to carbon capture opened in California in November 2023. A first for the country regarding the commercial scale to purchase carbon removal, it will use direct air capture to remove carbon from the air through a vacuum process to seal the gas into permanent concrete with the capacity to remove 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The company behind the plant, Heirloom, expects this type of operation to be built and utilised across the globe. This type of large-scale facility is expected to be sought out as companies that seek to go carbon-neutral are likely to explore these options, and demand is expected to increase.

Electricity Maps project provides a live, in-depth breakdown of the state of a large section of the world’s energy supply, including Ireland’s, as drawn from the EirGrid dashboard. As we head into 2024, it is clear that while much has been achieved this year, there is still a long path ahead to achieve our decarbonisation goals and keep our planet under 1.5°C in warming.

Planning 2

Live consultations

Draft Sligo County Development Plan 2024-2030

The Draft Sligo County Development Plan for 2024-2030 has been released and is open for public consultation. You can make a written submission on the Draft Development Plan by 4PM on Friday 22nd of December 2023

  • By post: Ms. Siobhán Gillen, Administrative Officer, Planning Section, Sligo County Council, City Hall, Quay Street, Sligo
  • Online
  • Email:

Draft Loughrea Local Area Plan 2024-2030

The Draft Local Area Plan for 2024-2030 has been released and is open for public consultation. You can make a written submission on the Draft Local Area Plan by 4PM on Monday 15th of January 2024.

  • By post: Loughrea Local Area Plan, Forward Planning Section, Galway County Council, Prospect Hill, Galway, H91 H6KX
  • Online
  • Email:


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